As we look back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem yourself in 2010, today’s lesson is about how to be opportunistic.
Opportunistic means you take advantage of a situation to get what you want. Maybe it is because I grew up in a large family and had to fight my 3 older brothers and a younger sister for everything I got, but being opportunistic has served me well in life.
Being opportunistic means that when you observe a situation, you use the power of persuasion, supported by a business case, to convince your boss to let you do what needs to be done, even if you’ve previously been told “no,” as we discussed yesterday.
You can apply this technique to many of your communications needs, but since I write crisis communications plans and teach media training, I’ll share with you a real life example of a HUGE opportunity that passed many people by in 2009.
Every year I get a wave of inquiries from people who want me to help them write their crisis communications plan, and most want a package, complete with a crisis communications drill and train their spokespeople. Many of the inquiries come this time of year because so many people these items on a list of goals and tasks to complete for the coming years. But many of those plans didn’t get written in 2009 because people were told “no, there’s no money in the budget.”
Then in April 2009, the Swine Flu epidemic began. This crisis presented a huge opportunity for you to go back to your boss, paint a grim picture, explain the potential negative impact the Swine Flu could have on your businesses, and get the funding you need.
Another way to be opportunistic is to get help from other departments. Pandemics are a huge concern for risk managers and human resource managers. In every risk management and human resources seminar, there are classes that focus on dealing with pandemics. This is a big issue for them. That means that if you are opportunistic, you can partner with those other managers to convince leadership that a crisis communications plan is an important element of risk management and employee communications.
Most of you who subscribe to the BraudCast are in internal communications, external communications, media relations, PR and marketing. And many folks in these fields are, by their very nature timid, and often take “no” as a final answer. I’d suggest that for 2010 you set as one of your goals to become opportunistic.
Look at it this way… In the case of the Swine Flu, workers would get sick, workers might die, productivity, production and sales could suffer… and you’d be called upon, likely at the last minute, to start crafting both a strategy and messages to deal with the impending crisis. That’s not really fair to you, is it? Especially if there is a solution, namely a pre-written crisis communications plan with pre-written templates. And if you already have a plan, you know it needs to update and tested. I have one client who is so opportunistic that I help him conduct 4 crisis communications drills every year.
So if you know in your heart that being prepared is the right thing to do professionally… then the answer is, being opportunistic is also the right thing to do professionally. If you achieve your goal and still do it legally and ethically, there is nothing wrong with being opportunistic.
Timing is critical when you are trying to be opportunistic. You have to be ready build a business case immediately after a crisis begins and present it to leadership while the crisis is still fresh in their minds. It doesn’t matter if the crisis is where you work or if it is a high profile crisis in the news. I can tell you from experience that each day that you get further from the crisis, the more likely leadership is to forget the trauma and devalue your proposal.
If your 2009 sin was a missed opportunity, your redemption in 2010 is setting a goal to be more opportunistic.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Shinny New Objects.
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