Habits of Strategic Thinkers
Recently, I had a conversation with a coworker about my personal business goals and what comes next after “intern life.” As I am extremely new to the PR world, this discussion got me thinking about not only what I want for myself in the industry, but also about the skills I need to get to the next level in my career.
Following this conversation, I took time alone to consider these personal goals. One specific topic that came into mind was how to become a strategic thinker and the importance of strategic planning for a PR professional. This is one skill I definitely need to work on.
From a fishbowl perspective, I am the person looking in, absorbing every email, brainstorm, meeting and new opportunity to learn about the PR world and the skills my coworkers have mastered. From time to time, we receive requests from our team members looking for insight on specific client needs, such as ideas for a new campaign. Everyone participates as emails begin shooting back and forth between coworkers sharing thoughts, stirring up ideas and backing up their reasons why certain ideas would work best for the client. This is what we call a team brainstorm. In the midst of the chaos of every brainstorm, I find myself wondering how to respond. Where do I even start? How did my coworkers master this skill to be able to spout out incredible, innovative and thoughtful ideas that work so perfectly for our clients? After a few more brainstorms, I realized that my strategic thinking needed a bit of a tune-up.
I have come up with a guide of questions to hang on my desk and ask myself from now on before every brainstorm:
- What is the client’s current situation?
- What is the client’s overall business goal?
- How can you generate new ideas? (Insight)
- How can you separate the client from the marketplace “noise”? (Competitive advantage)
- What are the benefits/costs of the offerings? (Value)
- Where should you focus capital, talent and time? (Target audience)
- Are you able to visually capture the essence of the business issues?
- How can you create new value for customers? (Innovation)
- Does the client have a well-developed mission, vision and values? (Main purpose/key message)
- What is the strategy?
Once those questions are answered, it will be much easier to put down into writing how and why the client should move forward. It’s not always easy to transition back and forth from right-brain thinking (creative, intuitive and subjective) to left-brain thinking (logical, analytical and objective), but for a PR professional it is a necessary skill.