PR and marketing plans often fail because communicators do not sufficiently engage the boss in what they are doing. Put simply: fail to win senior management buy-in and watch your PR proposal die. Often times persuading the boss is the toughest part in the whole communications process.
Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin's new book Repositioning: marketing in an era of competition, change and crisis suggests the communications barriers between the top floor where funds are allocated and the shop floor where ideas are born often involve:
- Cows: Never underestimate how tough it will be to get management sign-off on a new proposal that threatens someone else's favourite cow or worse still their cash cow. Future opportunities are often slaughtered on the altar of today's practices.
- Bad decisions: People are reluctant to embrace new ideas that cause them embarrassment about decisions they have made in the past.
- Egos: Always factor in egos. The person in charge may regard an initiative as a threat to their authority or status. They may either try to kill it or perhaps as bad to modify and brand it as their own. Trout and Steve Rivkin point out this ploy can be like changing a cake recipe. The cake may end up looking the same but it sure does not taste the same.
Both authors have come up with strategies to help you convince the boss and the board, all no doubt won from years of dealing with senior managers.
- The world has changed: Include a section on how the world has changed upfront in your proposal. This acknowledges previous decisions and past poor performance were based on the best information available at the time but now things are different. It avoids directly confronting past mistakes, lack of action or earlier decisions that were just plain bad.
- Educate the boss: Never, ever assume management knows about marketing, PR or communications or the latest trends. Bring in an outside expert to advise them, give them a suitable book to read or arrange for them to meet someone from a successful (non-competing) organisation they admire.
- Analogy: Use the power of analogy to draw a comparison with others. XYZ Company passed on trying something similar and look what happened to them. Given people are often motivated by loss rather than gain introduce a note of caution or alarm into the comparison. However always end with of course they may not happen to us but...
- Implement slowly: Start slowly, pilot programs, use trials and always announce your victories.
(Source Repositioning Pages 180 - 188)