Habit 2: You Cannot Do Everything for Everyone—Prioritize

10 Habits to Optimize PR Effectiveness

by Max Meng | March 18, 2009

The second habit is something everyone is aware of but has a hard time doing. Most public relations professionals are plagued with a common ailment—that is, a belief that they must do everything for everyone. Such a belief is simply impractical. It’s important to learn how to prioritize and streamline processes.

I was asked to lead a corporate communications department in New York City for a health plan. My CEO and vice president assigned me with the immediate task of making the department more efficient in anticipation for several new product rollouts. The company was recently awarded a contract by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to offer two new Medicare Advantage programs for seniors within the New Your City metro area.

My deadline was tight—I only had six months to develop an integrated marketing strategy and have it in place with marketing support materials ready for the sales department to use. At the same time, we were asked to perform our routine projects and assignments. In other words, when I arrived the department was in trouble and it was performing poorly. I was asked to fix things quickly and at the sample time increase the staff’s workload without seeking additional resources.

To resolve the department’s performance issues, my vice president felt strongly I should fire two people she had identified as “slackers.” However, I was willing to give them a second chance. I knew reducing our department during this critical time would affect the morale of the remaining employees as we needed to increase our efficiency as a group.

As part of my reorganization plan, I made changes to functional responsibilities among each employee. When I met with my two “slackers,” as my supervisor called them, to review their new responsibilities, I began to recognize the unique talents of these two employees. Each person was experienced and a highly skilled professional. Their problems were not because of a lack of skill or an inability to understand how to accomplish an objective. Instead, their problems were stumbling blocks, second-guessing by others, no standards to support them, and working multiple processes that usually took them in different directions.

I had observed this situation at other companies I had advised. The public relations professionals become weighed down, hampered with so many clients and projects that jobs become overwhelming and discouraging. They are vulnerable as if their arms hang low and their knees become feeble from trying to do everything for everyone.

I use a three “S” approach, which I recommend, for improving processes and to help staff prioritize:

1. Standardize

Today companies commonly have branding standards mainly because most companies cannot financially support multiple brands. This approach can be used for other areas of public relations to optimize efficiencies. Standards can be established for corporate messaging to avoid conflicting messages, integrating strategic marketing campaigns, planning special events, responding to social media and traditional media inquiries, etc. Processes and procedure manuals can be developed to help empower team members and reinforce their function as in house consultants. Staff can establish standards to ensure consistency in how they plan projects together.

Once a new standard is agreed upon, seek to obtain approval from senior management so your standards are formalized and recognized by those in other departments. They then must comply with your standards. One caveat—your staff should use good judgment when dealing with exceptions. Sometimes an exception and how you deal with the unique situation can be used to expand your standards.

2. Systematize

Identify routine projects that can be largely automated. Rather than dealing with similar projects differently, develop systems or procedures based on best practices that your similar projects must follow. Once a few of your projects are systematized, your staff will experience a dramatic change in time and resources. When this happens your group can focus on the real priorities—projects that require analysis, deliberation, and reflection. Too often we tend to focus on pressing matters that are urgent but not too terribly important.

3. Simplify

Work hard to simplify everything. Avoid becoming bureaucrat enforcers. For some reason, when we speak of policies, project management, processes, and procedures, we tend to complicate things. Instead, they can be used to simplify things to improve the work environment. By removing roadblocks, outdated policies, and duplicative processes, morale increases among employees and a feeling of empowerment emerges. Simplification helps a client know what to expect and the employees to understand their expectations as they work together.

In conclusion, public relations professionals can optimize efficiencies when they prioritize projects after standardizing, systematizing and simplifying their processes.

What happened to my two “slackers”? My department met its deadline. We successfully launched two new products on schedule and these health programs became two of the fastest growing products in their category within the New York City Metro Area. I did not let go either one of my low performing employees. In fact, one was recently promoted as director of the department.

A Dedicated Design

Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. When she reached the first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view back on the skyline of her hometown Bookmarksgrove, the headline of Alphabet Village and the subline of her own road, the Line Lane.