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The importance of long-term, strategic planning

Right now, we’re in a new world. One of self-isolation, of people losing their jobs, and businesses struggling to stay afloat. We’ve, quite rightly, seen many brands promptly and smartly reacting to COVID-19 as it literally sweeps across the globe, trying to keep things ‘business as usual’ when nothing about this situation is usual or normal.

Everyone is focused on the short-term impacts of COVID-19, and we’re really feeling it in the comms industry, understandably. Clients left right and centre are turning to us for advice on how they can pivot their business approach to tackle the short-term pain they’re feeling right now and try to manage the situation as best as they possibly can. But what about the other side? What about what comes next, how can we capitalise on the post-coronavirus world? We can’t forget about the importance of long-term planning in order to ride the wave when we finally emerge from the current position we find ourselves in.

So where should you start?

  1. Re-focus back on your most critical medium to long term business challenge. This may be a pre-COVID-19 challenge or something that now requires concerted effort to solve. Start by sharing and agreeing this with your agency and once locked in, both resolve to focus around this single-minded goal. Keeping your actual end goal in mind will help you focus on the important, not just the urgent.
  2. When some form of calm emerges, the stampede will be deafening. It’s not the noisiest but the cleverest that will cut through. Powerful strategy and distinctive creative will be more important than ever before, and you need a partner that will deliver on both those fronts, both in the short and long-term.
  3. Be ruthless in choosing your audiences. There is a subtle but important difference between stating and choosing an audience. Making a very purposeful choice about who you want to target with your communications, and being very clear about what you want them to do, is critical to ensure your comms programmes resonate. Broad audience definitions result in vague and shallow needs, which ultimately result in generic messaging. This will be a communications frenzy so you need pinpoint accuracy to succeed.
  4. If this period is likely to teach communications professionals anything, it’s that we have to stop working in silos. Once you know your most critical challenge, focus on developing a clear and powerful communications plan to address and then instruct all your channel partners to work together, to seamlessly to deliver the same message, tailored to suit audience needs. More than ever, effective and consistent communication will be crucial.
  5. Finally, don’t forget to be bold. Conservatism and thriftiness are the order of the moment but those who aren’t afraid to make a statement will be the ones who steal a march in the post-COVID-19 world. Whilst we need to be empathetic at the moment, people too will want to get back to some form of ‘new normality’ and we need big ideas, capable of engaging, enticing and influencing audiences again.

And what of the now, in this strange and unusual situation? Well, if, thanks to COVID-19, you do find that you need to batten down the hatches and reduce the external comms you push out to your audience, then use your time in hibernation wisely. That brand refresh, or that messaging project you’ve had on your to-do list, for example? Start planning, so when this is over, you’re ready to take on the new world.