“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” – Norman Schwarzkopf
Want to win a footy premiership? Or maybe an election? How about the presidency of the OECD? The answer, of course, is to embark on a Campaign.
But as the larger-than-life Stormin’ Norman put it, when it comes to campaigning, knowing the goal is the easy bit.
Marshalling, organising and sustaining your resources is quite another.
In the real world, communications teams don’t always have the luxury of time, or access to the specialist resources needed for when BAU (business as usual) communications simply won’t cut it.
At Bastion Reputation, we are privileged to work with amazing clients on diverse issues. Some projects last as little as one day, while others can last years.
We created our specialist Campaigns and Digital Reputation practice because we found clients were increasingly looking “beyond BAU”. To some extent, this has been amplified by COVID-19 but mainly by longer-term trends, such as more complex and challenging operating environments, a greater focus on risk and ESG, the rise of social media and consumer activism, and the increasing fragmentation of media and audiences.
Many organisations struggle to meet these new demands within existing resources, and under business plans that typically have 12-month horizons.
Compared to typical PR projects, campaigns are, in general, longer in duration, and draw on a variety of communications specialities. While a campaign might include media releases, for example, it is just as likely to require online or digital targeting and communication, social media, community engagement, advertising, government relations and internal communication.
And campaigns can be labour and time-intensive. Like their military equivalent, they require perseverance, recognising that change can be slow.
An ancient Tibetan proverb reminds us that “The ox is slow, but the earth is patient.” And much like tilling an unforgiving field, success in a campaign almost always belongs to the most persevering.
The 5 C’s of Effective Campaigning
At Bastion Reputation, we support our clients through what we call the 5 Cs of Effective Campaigning:
As leadership expert Steven Covey counsels, always start with the goal in mind. A clear, simple goal is your abiding purpose, your “North Star” that you are both guided by and measured against.
A campaign of any decent duration will falter without the buy-in and commitment of your leadership team – especially if you are bringing in external consultants. There will always be competition for scarce resources or distractions from the next shiny thing on the shelf. By bringing your team along with you, your collective focus will stay on the right issues at the right time.
Goals evolve and targets move, but a strong campaign is characterised by consistency in core elements like narrative, messaging, spokespeople, brand and audience engagement.
Whether you are in-house or in agency, the dynamic between internal communications teams and consultants r will either set you up for success or send you on the slow painful road to failure. Be sure to align your internal communications team with your thinking. Early engagement between the two teams build trust and breaks down barriers, while also transferring valuable specialist knowledge to your people.
Stick to the mission. Like the champion sportspeople we admire, you need to block out the noise, keep the goal in mind, and stay cool. And as the mighty Ash Barty has demonstrated so well this week, courage also means sticking to what you believe, no matter what others might say.
Many in-house communications teams are not geared to implement multifaceted, slow-burn campaigns that operate outside BAU. With the exception of major global brands in “issues-rich” political environments, it simply doesn’t stack up to have on staff the sort of expertise and experience that these types of campaigns demand.
As a rule, most communications campaigns are multi-disciplined, channel-agnostic, and tailored. They draw on a considerable armoury from across the business itself and outside, bringing together people with diverse backgrounds.
For the professional communicator, working on campaigns is both a privilege and a great opportunity to tackle difficult business challenges, and achieve outcomes which can deliver benefits that are greater than the sum of their parts.