It’s the time of year that most of us with large driveways and long sidewalks dread: snow shoveling season.
As I’ve burrowed out from Old Man Winter’s latest storm, I’ve thought about how shoveling mimics aspects of developing and executing a communications
strategy. Follow these steps:
Understand the foundation
Before I shovel a stretch of my walk or driveway, I evaluate what the foundation—underneath the layers of snow—is like.
For example, parts of my driveway are concrete, parts are gravel, and some parts have random stems growing out of them.
When you create a communications strategy you must evaluate it in the same way. Before tackling a campaign or strategy, try to understand the following:
You must also have a clear understanding of your goals. Though goals are the “end point,” they are part of the foundation.
By understanding what the foundation looks like, you can have a clearer vision of what the goal looks like. I know success on the concrete section of my
walk is clear pavement, but the success on the gravel sections is totally different—a snow-covered smoothness.
How your goals might vary is an important distinction you must make in your communications strategy.
Have the right equipment
During the winter, I say a prayer of gratitude to the deities of my daily survival:
· An endless variety of demigods in the form of hats, scarfs and really warm, high socks.
These things help me be effective, give my strategy longevity and produce a better product/end goal.
The tools don’t accomplish my goals; they support them. They help me be a better—and happier—shoveler, but I’m the center point. Even for those who use a
snowthrower, someone’s at the throttle.
As in a communications strategy, tools can help support success, but the communications team drives it. Tools alone never drive a communications strategy.
Make strategic partnerships
While I’m shoveling, I visit with neighbors, chat with dog-walkers and joggers and meet new people. I’ve managed to become a part of this small community.
Occasionally, my neighbor will clear part of my walk, and I’ll make sure I keep things clear of his oil tank so it’s easy for the delivery guy to get in to
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Partnerships support success in shoveling and in any communications strategy.
During a large storm, shoveling can be considered an endurance sport.
Sometimes you’ll shovel one section clean and by the time you get a fourth of the way through the next one, your first section already looks as though you
haven’t touched it.
It’s easy to get discouraged, so you must set success milestones and track them to see how you are doing.
In communications strategy this translates to a couple of important concepts.
Set realistic expectations.
Your client isn’t going to be on the cover of The Wall Street Journal the day after they hire you—and no, not the week after, either. Set your
client’s exceptions and your deliverables based on a timeline that makes sense.
Track, measure and evaluate.
Understand which PR metrics you should use to evaluate success, and
consistently track and evaluate them.
Prepare for the next storm
In many cities—unless it’s June or you live in Miami—you know that there’s going to be another storm not long after your dig yourself out from the previous
This means you should always be thinking long term.
During the first storm of the year, I could have taken the easy route and shoveled snow to the most convenient place possible, not considering how heaping
snow there would affect me in the long run. In my case, shoveling snow into the convenient spot near my driveway would only make things more difficult when
the next storm hit.
Opting for short-term success would prevent me from successfully reaching my long-term goal—at least without taking desperate measures.
In both shoveling and communications strategizing, it’s best to always evaluate short-term gain versus long-term success.
is the director of operations at Arment Dietrich. A version of this article originally appeared on