Australian Government,  Communication Strategy,  Communications professional

A plan for the sake of a plan

When you are stuck in the business of day to day, it’s easy to get lazy with your communication planning. Just list one thing for every channel, every audience you can think of, and the standard list of risks – no one engages, something goes wrong, someone changes their mind…

It’s an easy trap to fall into. If you have five strategies to write and a million meetings to go to, you don’t have time to do in-depth audience analysis or think of new creative content. Let’s be honest half the time, your brilliant ideas don’t make it through the approval process anyway.

In the same strategy, I have seen “The primary audience is government” (all of them??? public servants, State and Federal MPs, Ministers). Channels = Instagram post. I am sure the commonwealth minister is checking Instagram each day to find out what he needs to know!

Or my favourite “The Australian General Public” to which I always ask, do six month old babies and 66 year old retirees both care about this? How will we reach them both? A new web page, a media release and a social post. Tick. Done.

The challenge is strategies like this aren’t worth the paper they are written on (or the storage space, but you know what I mean). It takes time to write a strategy, so why bother even writing one if the content will never reach anyone. If you really don’t care if it’s effective or not, just put the web page up, link to it on Facebook and be done with it.

It is “communication strategies” with this lack of thinking that gives communication professionals a bad name. It’s the reason why people say – anyone can do comms. Every time you put up a strategy like this (and we all have), you are diminishing the work and effort that goes into a strategy.

So what can you do to change? There are times when you just need to tick the box, especially in government. You need it on record that you publicly announced a thing. It doesn’t really matter how many people saw it or how much coverage you get.

Maybe it’s time we just owned these occurrences. Write a one-page plan to accompany whatever brief is going up the line and move on. One media release, one social post, and an email to key stakeholders.

Communicated. Done.

Don’t waste time and energy pushing through a detailed strategy if what is needed is just a media release for the Minister’s Office. Repeat after me – Not everything needs a strategy.

This then frees up time to do the actual strategic work, the thinking, the research. This is where you can shine – spend time understanding your audience and where they are, what are they interested in and how to reach them. Come up with new creative content ideas, better messages, and ideas for new channels. Spend your time on the valuable work. This is where you demonstrate your value as a communicator.

It’s actually more strategic to do some things well and a lighter touch on others.

Rant over.

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