Taking a Spontaneous Leap Often Begins with a Plan

People who know me would surely list among my attributes as being very organized as well as a thoughtful, creative and yes, at times, anal planner. And they’re both true. I enjoy thinking ahead and planning to ensure I get to see those I care about, do the things that matter and enjoy the meaningful moments in my life while working work around them. While some would argue it’s about putting the big rocks in first, I would take it back a step and say it’s really about knowing what the big rocks are.

But sometimes the secret to enjoying life is adopting a seize-the-moment mentality. To leap ahead and quickly say yes to something you never would have imagined. It’s about the times you have but a moment to respond – “Do you want to join and go on vacation to…” or “I have an extra ticket to tonight’s….” In those moments, yes is almost always my answer and I figure out the details later.

The two ends of the spectrum had me thinking about how both attributes – planning and spontaneity – also have their place in communications. And that those who are most successful have a balance of both. Here’s a few thoughts on how and why.

  • Reputation Management. Companies today are expected to have a strong moral compass and are under a lot more scrutiny than in decades past. As a result, companies put a great deal of thought, energy and effort behind reputation management. At the same time, it’s increasingly important to promptly respond with a point of view on a hot news topic the minute it comes out. To seize the moment, you have to swiftly figure out your company positioning (or where your company stands) on the issue, certainly internally and possibly externally.

  • Issues and Crisis. Since issues and crises can arise at any moment, it’s easy to assume you can’t plan for them. In my experience you can. And taking a planned approach enables you to react quickly and with clarity, and to get to the other side with your company’s reputation intact. Start by doing an inventory of your company’s issues and then put together an action plan for how to solve them. If you can’t eliminate them entirely, then be sure you have a planned approach for what to do when the unexpected happens. A piece of that might even include putting your crisis plan on a mobile app, which we are in the middle of doing now.

  • Social Engagement. Planning for social content is a wise thing to do. But it’s not wise to just let the planned approach run on autopilot. You should always go back and review what was planned and adjust your scheduled content to match what’s really happening in the world. If you don’t, you risk looking tone deaf. On the opportunistic side, you can see what’s trending and respond spontaneously.

  • Building a Leadership Brand. A big part of the communications function is working with leaders, many of who prefer to work with set of messages that have been painstakingly refined. I’ve learned that while it’s critical to know your center of gravity and certainly your messages, often the most powerful communications come from a leader who knows the company, the messages and themselves so well that they can respond off the cuff and in his or her own words.

  • Social Networks for Internal Communication. You can now enhance your internal communications with new internal social platforms such as Workplace by Facebook. While you can plan to post announcements and for Facebook Live sessions, the true beauty of these platforms is the unplanned – because it’s the employees who take the lead. As a communicator, in addition to planning how you share corporate news, you want to make sure you are listening to and engaging with employees. Take on board what they’re passionate about, what they’re talking about and tap into it. That’s where the real opportunity lies.

It’s been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. So, perhaps, spontaneity is when planning meets risk. It enables us to embrace all those times when we need to take a leap of faith, to embrace something new and to jump in with both feet and go. A principle that seems to ring as true in communications as it does in life.