We’ve reached that time of year where everyone is just about focussed on the new year ahead, already thinking about their New Year’s resolutions in the hope that this is the year they’ll be able to stick to them longer than a few weeks. We hear the phrase, ‘New year, new me’, as we make promises to ourselves that next year we’re going to try and be a better human, one way or another.

In doing so, do we make our resolutions for the new year too ambitious and, sometimes, too strict? We see it as almost a punishment for over-indulging and enjoying the holidays and yet, most of us don’t stick to our resolutions because we’re too hard on ourselves and we can’t make them a habit. We’re in for another turbulent year ahead in an already hectic world and if we set ourselves completely wild new year’s resolutions, we’ll only add to the chaos in our lives.

Instead of conjuring up really out-there resolutions and then feeling struck down, we should be kinder to ourselves and look at improving what we already know and do. With this in mind, here’s a manageable and sticky approach to New Year’s resolutions and a look into what we could be doing more of next year:

More learning

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we learn something new every day. It could be a new piece of technology that we’ve read about in the news, a new way of working that we’ve learnt from a podcast or a new way of thinking we’ve learnt from our friends. The digital resources around us are saturated with new content every day and we need to continue to take advantage of it. As well as continuing to learn new facts, figures and information, we also need to learn more from our mistakes too.

This makes me think about the parallels between Samsung launching its first foldable phone and Greggs launching its first vegan sausage roll a few years back. Samsung, having experienced a string of hardware problems in the past, chose to rush its highly anticipated product to market only to discover that the product was flawed once in the hands of reviewers. Greggs, on the other hand, did well. Whilst it may not have been the first brand to break into the vegan sausage roll market, it executed a campaign that boosted shares by 13%, the best performer on the FTSE 100 at the time.

The difference? Greggs listened and learned from its audience. The spike in veganism and vegan-friendly products over the last couple of years meant that it was the perfect time for Greggs to enter the market. So much so that everyone wanted to taste the new product. That’s where listening and learning can take you.

More reading  

One of the things I admire about Bill Gates that he talks about in his documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain, is his ‘think weeks’. Twice a year, he’ll spend a week locked away in a secret cabin reading papers on all different kinds of topics, expanding his mind and outlook of the world. When I learned about this, I was in complete admiration and jealous! One of the busiest people in the world still finds time for himself and uses it in a productive way. So, for us, there are really no excuses.

Whilst I’m not suggesting that we all run off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and read all the Jane Austen novels backwards, we should make the time to read something outside of our daily reading routine. Most of us will probably read the latest headlines, social media updates or newsletters, so why not try exploring a new platform? Maybe find a new subreddit or Forbes columnist, even broadening out to the likes of podcasts and audiobooks to find another way to digest information. Reading and digesting information helps us in many ways whether it’s inspiration for a blog, learning something or just keeping up to date with the world. And we should be doing more if it.

More exercise

Walk into a gym in January and no doubt it will be heaving with people trying to shave off the pounds after Christmas. Then, in February, it begins to die down because people have stretched themselves too much. Instead of going in at the deep end when it comes to exercise, try making small changes. Remember, we’re not starting new, we’re trying to improve what we already do. That could mean walking to work rather than taking the tube or taking a regular walk round the office to stretch your legs.

Wellness remains a huge trending topic, and everyone has a desire to be healthier, but that doesn’t mean we have to push ourselves or plan to run a marathon. Small changes and switches to our normal routine is enough to clear our mind and start fresh.

More quiet time

With social media and news outlets churning out content every hour of the day, there’s never a quiet moment in comms. That means as comms professionals, we also have little quiet time. Although it’s in our nature to work in fast-paced environments and keep busy, we also need to make time for more quiet moments to avoid complete exhaustion and burnout. That could mean taking ourselves away from the office for a couple of hours or working from a different environment. A quiet environment where you become lost in your own thoughts is important to let creative thinking flow.

More face-to-face time

I knew a headmaster who called any TV a moron’s lantern, but these days the email has become the modern-day mind pollutant. Every time we come back from a long holiday or break; we dread the first day back where we have to sift through the mountain of emails we’ve received. As well as taking up a lot of our time, emails can also be poor at getting our message fully across because we don’t have any audio or visual cues to justify the tone or style of the communication.

Psychology professor, Albert Mehbrain, says that there are three basic elements in face-to-face communications: words, the tone of voice and body language. And according to his study, words account for only 7% of the messages, meaning tone of voice and body language make up 38% and 55% respectively.

So, to really make our message count and mean something, it’s best to meet face to face or at least have a conversation on the phone. An email will only get us so far in terms of communicating and building a relationship so face-to-face time is valuable.

Staying strong in the New Year

We often associate the New Year with starting afresh and whilst it’s good to be ambitious and motivated to do more good things, we should also maintain and do more of the things we enjoy too.

In that case, maybe we should drink more coffee because sometimes, and for all the right reasons, we need that extra burst of energy!

Or maybe we should commit and focus on just one resolution that will last all year.

Here’s wishing all our clients, employees and colleagues in the comms industry a good reprieve from the year that was and happy planning for the New Year!

Free can mean very pricey indeed – as a disguised expense, or a hidden cost somewhere. The subject of ‘something for nothing’ certainly hits a nerve. There are enough song lyrics about it to fill an album, with bands and artists like Dire Straits, U2, Lil’ Jon and DJ Khaled singing their views.

As humans, we are all genetically programmed to love securing a bargain. 1 in 4 of us is physiologically more prone to a splurge in sales.  And there’s even a very forgettable acrynoym TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) –  the essence of which we are very aware.

Picture credit - https://www.flickr.com - hoteldelapaixgeneve/

In the public relations industry, clients pay good money for objectives to be achieved, and the PR agencies deliver a good service, purposefully designed to achieve these objectives. Every now and then, a PR campaign grows and expands beyond its originally planned size (and budget) and everything gets blown off course. It’s the agency’s responsibility to manage this issue, with the client’s support.

An agency should not take umbrage about scope creep but instead take it as a compliment that more support is required. It’s highly unlikely that ‘extra for nothing’ is an objective from a devious client. More likely, it’s a misunderstanding of a change of requirements, or perhaps an appetitie for greater impact as business pressure grows. I expect clients are personally feeling the pain and pressure too. No client wants surprise additional invoices in the mail.

At what point is this additional activity discussed as an extra cost, or whether or not it replaces previously planned activity (unlikely)? The truth is that someone will be paying as there is no source of effort or energy – or even lunch – that does not require resources from something else.

Here are some tips for making sure that any PR scope creep is seen as a positive development and that everyone is committed to delivering the results required, without anyone being taken advantage of:

1. Understand by starting with the end in mind

As a client, what do you want to see and need as evidence of success? What is the business goal you are aiming for? Will the PR results make the difference you need? Rebuild your PR plan with your agency to deliver the difference.

2. Collaborate and rebuild the plan together

At all stages of planning, a client should work alongside the agency, giving constructive feedback at every stage, and having the shared responsibility of achieving success together.

3. Define the plan in detail

An agency should be mindful that the PR campaigns, PR projects or PR programme will have an appropriate level of activity commensurate with the budget, and the impact of which will deliver the results required for the client. An agency must know what the business objectives are.

4. Set the budget

An agency should estimate the time taken to undertake the activities which will deliver the results – and it should all be costed out in detail to fall within the budget. The budget must be transparent, a client must be able to understand the cost of the activity and where each £ is going.

5. Pin it down, in writing, with signatures

Get your plan, the activity, the KPIs and the anticipated targets and budget signed off. Agree that any additional activity is extra to the plan, and set an agreed pricing level between client and agency for additional activity requested. This must be signed off as extra. A client needs to completely understand what they are paying for, and what is extra. Transparency is crucial – and nothing is really free unless it has £0 value against it.

I think you get my gist. The remedy is getting it right in the first place, planning everything with a high degree of detail to ensure success and constantly monitoring.

At Firefly we call this high definition planning.

Picture credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hoteldelapaixgeneve/ 

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information