There’s not one communications professional I spoke with at this week’s IABC World Conference in New York who hasn’t been told (directly or indirectly) to do more with less.
So, how do you do it? When the cuts are more than a third, or close to half of your previous budget?
One suggestion from Heather Ritchie, vice president of marketing operations and communications at Alcatel-Lucent, who presented a session “Doing more with less: How to deliver results in spite of budget cuts,” is to change your mindset and instead do less more effectively. Ritchie provided the following suggestions on how to do just that:
1. Slow down to move fast. Diagnose the situation fully, and look for voids in the program. By slowing down, you can focus on what’s essential. A doctor doesn’t operate without a full understanding of the issues. You can’t either. Take time to understand what you have, what is needed, and where you can add value.
2. Understand what the business needs. Ritchie explains that the closer communicators are to the front line of understanding the business, the more value they can bring to it. One way to look at this approach, Ritchie suggests, is for communications people to have some insight into numbers and the forecast. This way you can ask, “Are the resources proportionate to the expectations and the business objectives?”
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3. Know your stakeholders. If you understand your stakeholders and take time to understand what they need, then your program will be stronger. (Psssst—you’ll also be serving your audience.) There is a big difference between the loudest and most persistent voice and the most influential or important voice. Know the difference.
4. Dig through the complexities. Analyze the types of conversations going on in the market and in your hallways. Look at what people are saying and who’s being heard; then, figure out where your organization has something credible to say.
5. Seek out skills and thought diversity for your team. Look for accountability, eagerness to learn, and a drive to do more. Behavior matters, and it can make or break a team’s success. Your diagnosis should include what you can deliver with the resources you have. In the end, you are only as capable as your team, so get it right.
6. Step back so you can see it. If you spend enough time observing, listening, and analyzing, you’ll see what the business needs from you; that’s when you should set the vision and strategy.
7. Keep metrics simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. If you don’t know exactly what success looks like, your team sure won’t either. Have regular conversations with your team. When you think everyone is aligned, think again. Make sure.
8. Align your resources (time, people, budget, expertise) with your plan. Spend 80 percent of time and effort on the most important initiatives, and assign your best people to those initiatives. Though it may seem obvious, you’ll start to realize that resourcing everything equally isn’t the pathway to success.
9. Let go with confidence. People are as good as they believe they are. Give them reason to believe. Ritchie’s philosophy is that the more things you touch, the less you get done. Allow your team to lead. In this way, when it comes to executing the plan, your job as leader is strategy, focus, resource management, politics, and counsel—all of which are crucial to success.
10. Make it personal. Recognize personal growth contributions and milestones. It’s rewarding to watch your team grow.