We’ve all been inundated over the past few months with plenty of advice how to manage through a pandemic. In fact, I had an opportunity back in March to speak to the local business community about in a crisis. Looking back, I now wonder what I would have said differently on that Zoom if I knew that we’d still be “Zooming” three months later?
Rather than focus just on the pandemic (or hopefully post-pandemic) period, I would like to share a philosophy that has become my “M.O.” over the past few years.
STOP – THINK – COLLABORATE – PLAN – EXECUTE
With business leaders and staff self-quarantined and working from home due to COVID-19, it is much easier to make decisions based on our own preferences for tackling problems. Some people will see a clear path and will start down a road in addressing the solution. Others will noodle on it, sometimes for days, before deciding how to proceed. Regardless of your preference, doesn’t it make sense to stop and think it through? Don’t you think it would be wise to consult with others who will be impacted by your decision before you proceed? And execution, you must have an opportunity to review and implement a system of continuous improvement.
However, the most often overlooked piece of this equation is collaboration. Leaders will often look to subject matter experts, but they also need to collaborate with those who are focusing externally, such as on customers, competitors, policymakers and community leaders. Each of these external stakeholders could have important insights, information and perspectives that could benefit the outcome of the decision.
So how can we relate this theory to responding to today’s challenges?
Small and large companies and organizations have had to make dramatic changes to how they do business in this pandemic era. The most successful ones have been those who have been slowing things down and working collaboratively. Rather than operating in a vacuum, they are relying on input from industry associations, public health and other government agencies, their customers, and their employees. They are listening, learning, and adapting to best practices as they determine how to pivot as the rules of doing business continue to change.
At the beginning of the pandemic, as the state and local governments were working to define “essential businesses,” one of my clients wanted to ensure that it was considered “essential” and could continue to operate, albeit with new precautions. We assisted the state association that was working on the matter at the state level, but we were also seeing county governments around the state placing restrictions on the sector. Ultimately, we were successful in meeting our client’s goal due to working collaboratively with other local business associations, local officials, and through effective communication with the media and other stakeholders on the potential impact of shuttering the industry on the local economy. Had we worked on this issue in isolation, we would not likely have been as successful. This approach may slow things down but, with the right guidance, it will pay off in these uncertain times. More companies and organizations would be well served to ensure cross-function collaboration as they develop their communication and engagement strategies.
Ruth Ravitz Smith is the President of RR Smith Strategic Solutions, where she leverages three decades of experience assisting businesses and organizations with getting in front of the right audiences and telling the right stories to ensure their success. Ruth's experience includes leading government relations offices for international companies, associations, and nonprofits, and serving in roles at the Federal, state, and local levels of U.S. government. Ruth maintains strong relationships in North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and in many countries where she has worked. In recent years, Ruth expanded into marketing and communications, rounding out her experience in external affairs.
Book a private consultation with Ruth at Poligage.com to discuss how to strategically position your organization’s reputation, communications, and/or stakeholder collaboration strategy.