Lean In is good advice, Ask For What You Want works too

Errant Musings
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photo: justinablakeney.com, Like She Said #6

I joke to my friends that I am practically illiterate since having kids. Sadly, it’s not really a joke. As a former English lit major and daughter of a published linguist, this is a pretty sad state. Recently I have been picking up the (dusty) books on my nightstand and trying to stay the course. Not declaring master literacy just yet, but I have enjoyed some progress with a few reads, including Sheryl Sandberg’s “you can have it all” manifesto, Lean In. It’s one of those books you can read in short spurts, put down and pick up again later.

This is simply preamble to a recent revelation: Ask For What You Want. Stick with me, this will make sense.

End of year, I’ve been doing a lot of plan writing and development of creative briefs for FY2014. As I am crafting the big visions, thinking about contingencies and making lists of things needed to make the execution of these big visions happen, I realize that I was not inputting what I really needed but rather what I thought would make it past approval process! Whoa. It seems I have at times, fallen into the habit of asking for “just enough’ versus what I really need and want.

I am mindful when developing plans and programs that resources are limited. The realization that I had fallen into a pattern of asking for ‘just enough’ versus the “big sky” wish list of what I want was sobering. Is this so wrong?

Not asking for what you want means you may not get what you set out to win, at least not in the long run. This is not good. Sure, sometimes, maybe often times, realities that we cannot control hit. But if we don’t lay out the big vision with the big ask, we are inevitably falling into a pattern of marginalizing what we need. I pride myself on being able to do a lot with minimal resources, time, etc., but when we are hitting refresh, dreaming big and starting anew, we need to go for it. Ask for what we know we really need. Hard line realities and the inevitable compromise will happen soon enough.

Back to reading books. A book is a commitment. Reading means diving in deeper, beyond the intro paragraph, the headlines and subheads. It means taking in information and processing, forming an opinion based on more than 140 characters or a snappy headline or a clever hashtag.

I credit my recent bedside reading with helping me to get to this moment. It’s simple, Ask For What You Want. And, honestly, how often do you find yourself asking for less, for just what you think someone will give you versus asking for what you really want?

Ask for what you want. This is going onto my New Year inspiration board. If I make one that is.

Getting a Head Start on a New Year

Projects + Events
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Don’t get me wrong, I love, love each and every moment of the holiday season. Extra time with family and friends, festive parties, and the demonstrated expressions of giving and gratitude are especially sweet. But as the Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie buzz begins to lift, it feels like we are suddenly ringing in the New Year. The year’s end signals the time to prepare for the year to come. As we celebrate another great year at KSPR, here are just some of the key mantras buzzing in our heads as we plan for an even better 2014.

Don’t hit repeat. Data is your friend. Look at the initiatives and key programs that were successful and, more importantly, take a look at those that did not meet expectations. Define the metrics that matter. It’s tempting to stick with what you’ve done before but that’s a mistake. We are so busy and so focused on next, next, next that often we forget all that we accomplished. The year’s end is an opportunity to look at the big wins once again (this part is fun) and record best practices for next year. Just as critical, it is a chance to take a good, unemotional look at the efforts that did not yield the desired results. Best lessons to carry forward are often learned when things did not execute perfectly.

Reinvent. Learn from wins and losses but always keep space for something new and brilliant. We are not about plugging into existing templates and calling it done. This is not strategic and will not garner the big, shiny wins. One of my favorite anecdotes occurred early on in building my company; a prospective client asked within 10 minutes of our very first meeting, “Well, what will you do for me?” Sorry, but if what you do is so generic that I can plug it into a PR playbook, than you need more than PR, you need a really big, really robust marketing and advertising budget. The intersection of fresh ideas and focused execution is what differentiates us from the rest.

Focus on the product. Our clients are firmly in the consumer products and services space. We meet with them to understand where they want to go next. What are the key investments planned? What products and services did their customers buy and what was left on the shelf?  Why? What products and services continue into next year? What are the new introductions and when? What is marketing and sales planning to do to support? In the course of these discussions, we plan accordingly for seasonal, launch and event initiatives around core and new products and services. Deep in the trenches of metrics and planning, we never lose sight of the product.

New metrics. Once key product manufacturing and deliveries are confirmed, we put ourselves in the planning stages of these marketing and sales discussions so that PR initiatives are aligned with the business. If we can influence and align at the planning stages, we are doing all that we can to ensure that efforts and resources are aligned with the important metrics for business success. This is how we ensure our relevancy and seriously, this makes what we do much more interesting. No one here likes execution for the sake of execution. Results tied to metrics of business success are where we live to work.

In our world, Christmas in July is a reality as the consumer magazines search for the best of the best for their holiday gift guides. By the time the holidays are under way, feeling a little ‘been there done that.’ But the planning and strategy for what’s next has always been the fun part. Thinking about next year won’t take my enjoyment away from the actual holiday festivities. In fact, they will be that much sweeter with the knowledge that we are prepped and ready for what’s on the horizon. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and anticipation for more to come in the New Year.