Working on the business, not in the business

Working on the business, not in the business

I used to work with an entrepreneur who talked a lot about needing to stand back from the day-to-day business to make sure the proper business got done.

This sentiment often springs to mind, especially when clients say: “I forgot to tell you about that!” Sometimes it’s all too easy to get caught up in the minuteia of every-day activities and forget that bigger picture; it’s usually the more interesting, news-worthy ideas and events that get missed off the agenda simply because no one has had the time to think about them, let alone realise the value to customers, the local community or longer term to the bottom line.

It would be (relatively) interesting to look at the time business owners and consultants spend on planning business activity and communications outreach and compare it to what is actually delivered. I’ve had a few recent experiences when, on reviewing PR plans full of creative ideas and new approaches, we recognised that what we set out to achieve has been turned upside down due to highly urgent yet regularly tactical activity. Sometimes this is simply the nature of a client’s business sector and being pragmatic and responsive is the nature of the beast; in this instance, planning activity levels rather than championing specific topics and issues are more important to be able to demonstrate measurable value for money. Unfortunately, it’s often down to an inability by key stakeholders to stand back and really evaluate what will drive the business forward, help develop reputation and brand values and impact the bottom line.

The old adage of he who shouts loudest wins and it’s the quiet yet potentially innovative project that gets lost. Ideas that may take a little effort to get going are pushed aside in favour of a quick win. Let’s face it, successful PR comes down to guts, bravery and being willing to take on a challenge – we never said it was easy!

And in recognising that challenge, it is the decent PR consultants that will push back and get clients to re-evaluate priorities. It takes time to build trusted relationships, understand how to delve into businesses to find out what’s really going on and be able to speak directly to customers who give the real insight into why that client’s service or product was purchased; often for reasons that have been missed by the business itself. It’s fair to say that this is one of PR’s undersold benefits – the ability to be independent, stand back and see the wood from the trees to uncover those gold nuggets that frankly, are so often missed by companies. Fundamentally however, organisations have to want to listen to advice and value that consultancy – and so we’re back to the initial challenge; that of being able to stand back from the day-to-day to see the bigger picture! Luckily, when you look at successful businesses, PR is usually at the heart of what they do. So go on, take a moment to see what’s really going on in your business; you might be glad you did.

Posted: 10 October 2012

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