I was reading an interview with the head of Telia Lithuania the other day and a very good idea mentioned there caught my attention: My hairdresser can say that he wants to be more market oriented. The question is, how will you do it?
Strategies are presented in a breathtaking way, ideas glow like dazzling comets, however, then the curtain drops and the audience disperses. Routine sets in, the grey of the daily grind takes to the fore, which often is too much for brilliant strategies that then find themselves accumulating dust in drawers.
Communication is no exception, here too it is easy to work in a campaign based frameset. It is enough to look at who takes the accolades in the annual communication (marketing, advertising, PR) awards: campaigns and projects. Sometimes a person might also get an award for their specific achievements. What message does this send? Communication is understood as something done in quick bursts, with the emphasis on big bangs that shake the market.
Does this mean that awards like these are unnecessary? Of course not. Do I feel a hint of envy, when my colleagues or competitors win? Of course I do. Do I feel a sense of pride when we win? Yes, yes I do.
That being said, it should not be forgotten that communication is not a sprint, it is a marathon. To be even more specific, it is a marathon interlinked with periods that require intense bursts of speed. However, we seem to only notice those bursts.
Not unlike any other sphere, communication is lined with a lot of people that work silently and tirelessly without receiving any awards because… There is nothing to reward them for. It is hard to imagine an award for person for issuing 50 brilliant press releases during a year. Or could you imagine an award for a person that spent 20 years, day in and day out arguing with the managerial staff, safeguarding from business practices that would be misunderstood in the public eye, solving crises and picking the perfect timing to go to war and to sue for peace with the media?
I know more than a few experienced veterans of the communication field that stay in the shadows, silent workhorses that prefer their company heads and clients to take to the limelight. They have never graced the stage to receive a reward, have not spoken publically in great detail about their work even though they would have so much to say, and all of us would benefit greatly from listening to them, I am sure of it.
I will confess to strongly suggesting both my colleagues and clients avoid any communication plans that are to last longer than 3 months. During such a time period the environment might change so much that the plan will lose all of its purpose, and eventually can even become a hindrance. Such plans will need to be changed and adapted, the feedback analyzed and based on it, even more amendments become needed.
One day I was sharing a cup of coffee with one of these veterans in communications and he offered me a brilliant insight:
“You know; communications’ wise you shouldn’t aim to create a rigid structure, an unmovable and fundamental positive of a polished reputation. The innate chaos around us is too strong and can easily tear it all down”.
To paraphrase him: a pristine image irks people and even the smallest stain on a polished surface can screams out drawing attention.
“It is better to create a fluid and adaptable structure with a few support points that would allow the system to return to its initial shape, once the outside pressure subsides”. He added.
What are those support points? They are not limited to content. There’s strategy, mission, vision and values. An important support point is the process itself, work principles and action-schemes.
A decade ago a new idea was born and over the span of a few years took shape in INK agency. I call it ordnung but it goes by many names among my colleagues: law and order, promise=done etc. This is just as important as strategizing and planning.
Communication at its core is chaotic. We do not know, how the public will perceive a specific message we transmit. The creative process is by no means less chaotic since variations for ideas, texts and visuals are limitless. Thus it is important to control that, which is possible to control in this unpredictable environment.
Fully embracing ordnung takes time. All of us can easily sort our desk, our room and our apartment out. However, to keep it tidy day in and day out becomes the real challenge and that is where real order is found.
What you are reading today will be the 273rd INK agency blog post, the first was published six and a half years ago, on October 2nd, 2012. In the scope of Lithuanian communications’ industry, the only contender beating out our blog is Dansu Dansu, a place obviously showing signs of slowing down, though already active for more than a decade.
Am I bragging? Yes, though I like to think I am proud, because the accolades belong to every single INK agent, both current and former.
I am showcasing this example for a reason, since a blog perfectly encapsulates the mixture of perseverance and order in communication. Both Lithuania and the world at large has numerous examples of blogs being started loudly with fireworks in toll only to fizzle out and drop from the marathon in a few years if not a few months.
Perfectionism often becomes the main nemesis to order and perseverance. Many a times I have heard people say that blog post A wasn’t to their liking or that that blog post B was weak. And they were right. When you put out a blog post every week, when it is a joint project with many authors including both managers with years upon years of experience behind them and freshly hired assistants that are taking their very first steps in this field; the quality of writing is not the only thing that differs. The topics themselves become varied and while ones attract a certain type of reader, others will appeal more to someone else.
You have to make a choice. You can try to perfect every single entry to your full satisfaction, however you will fail to produce them on a weekly basis for seven straight years. We chose the path of a clear and concise rhythm and routine, with less glitz, but more certainty and honesty. In our case we chose a flexible structure that can withstand the chaotic environment of laziness, writer’s block, vacations or a simple lack of desire to put pen to paper.
To go back to the quote at the beginning: any organization or a communications’ expert can say we need a blog, the question then is how to ensure consistent and stable updates within? To start is easy, the perseverance part is what is hard. If you got tired keeping up, then do not be too hard on yourself, it happens to most people. However, if that does happen, by any means do not keep it up in such a state that people can spot the last entry dating several years back. Either hide the dates or the blog itself entirely.