20 January 2022
My 2022 Resolution: Be More Like Comms, So I Don’t Bomb
Confession time: I’ve joined the masses in downloading a new fitness app this January, in a bid to take my New Year’s resolution seriously. How are your resolutions doing? Did you even set any this year?
You can be forgiven if not. We’ve only just stopped wishing each other a Happy New Year, and already many of us that did set ourselves targets will be struggling to stick to them.
It’s a familiar tale. Tempted by the things we’re trying to avoid. Or finding new habits and behaviours hard to fit into our busy lives.
Why do so many well-intentioned resolutions fail (and often so quickly)? I won’t claim to be a psychologist or behavioural expert. There are plenty of those out there offering sound theories as to why.
But I also think we can learn a lesson or two from the world of strategic communications.
Don’t put the cart before the truck
Think about the sorts of resolutions we often set ourselves. “I will cut out meat during the week.” “I’ll call my mum every other day.” “No looking at my phone after 9pm.”
They all sound perfectly sensible. But have we asked ourselves what they are designed to achieve, or what change they will deliver?
I’d argue that too many resolutions fail because we approach them the wrong way, and start with tactics without considering the overall objective.
Good communications plans (should!) start with setting overall goals – the outcome you wish to achieve. Then, devising an effective strategy working back from that goal which will help you get there. Once the goals and strategy are set, the right tactics can be developed.
Bad communications plans fail when they comprise of nice sounding tactics that don’t hang together as part of a clear path towards a defined grand vision. For example, do those social media posts or that round of media interviews actually help reach the audiences you have said you want to reach? Or provoke the reaction you want to provoke?
Through this lens, you can see why a resolution like “no meat from Monday to Friday” might not last long. Why are you cutting out meat? Is part of a health drive, or to save money? Are you doing it on environmental or ethical grounds?
If we’re not clear with ourselves about what the end goal is, temptation and day to day life stands more chance of winning.
Whether or not you love acronyms, I think the SMART approach to setting comms objectives can help us with our resolutions. In other words, picking a goal that is Specific, Measurable (more on that in a sec), Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
BUT – don’t let it be your slave. For example, a fitness goal based around losing a certain amount of weight, or hitting a specific PB at your local parkrun, might be too specific and become a burden if it’s not achievable. ‘Feeling healthier and faster’ may be an alternative.
Don’t be afraid to change course
Once we have set an ‘end goal’ resolution, and some actions to help us achieve it, communications can also be a guide what for how we ensure we succeed.
End goals are often grand. Breaking it down with clear milestones and KPIs can help the road to the top seem less daunting.
At the same time, a good system of real-time measurement is vital. That could be capturing data on performance (hence me and my app!), but also benchmarking how things are changing for the better.
What exactly you measure will depend on the goal. But this matters, because it will help you spot if something isn’t working. Maybe one of the new things you’re doing doesn’t seem to be making any difference. Or – simply but crucially – perhaps you’re just not enjoying it. On-the-go evaluation will allow you to spot this and change focus if needed, rather than ploughing on fruitlessly.
Confession time again: I’ve never loved New Year’s resolutions. Partly because I struggled to stick to them? Yep, that was definitely part of it. Maybe with some lessons from comms, 2022 will be different.