Five Ways Corporate Communicators Can Get a Jump Start on 2018

It’s December, which means many of us are closing out the year, wrapping up outstanding projects and sending well-wishes to customers, clients and colleagues. It’s also time to bring that 2018 strategic communications plan to completion.

But after the ink is dry on next year's communications plan, there's still a lot that corporate communicators can do to get a head start before January. As we countdown to 2018, here are five often-overlooked strategies your team can implement to start next year on a strong foot. Each will pay dividends in the form of increased productivity, greater industry awareness, faster ramp-up after the New Year and/or increased collaboration internally.

1. Employee Engagement

How are your internal stakeholders feeling as the year ends? What have they accomplished? What have they endured? Think about sending a pulse survey to see what’s on the minds of employees right now. Find out where the pockets of inspiration and discord are hiding. That way, before the larger strategic plan rolls out in January, you’ll have time to adjust or move around elements as needed. What could be a highly important initiative to one functional area could be a snooze for another. It’s important to know that before allocating resources.

2. Competitive Insights

You may scroll through several newsfeeds every day and feel sufficiently informed about current events, but are you looking beyond today? December is a great time to read between the lines on your competitors’ news coverage and see where they might be focusing next year. Look for subtle shifts in messaging, a new media outlet covering a company, or a different spokesperson quoted and you may gain insight into nuances you hadn’t seen before. It only takes a few days to pull together a media audit, and the greater awareness you bring to conversations internally can pay big dividends. Everyone likes to have a trend spotter in the room.

3. Social Media Policy

Is yours up to date? Many companies’ social media policies were developed during the era of Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter infancy and haven’t been updated since. As platforms proliferate, elements of augmented reality make their way into our daily lives, and social media plays a more central role in news coverage, companies will need to stay up to date. While the basic policy and governance might remain the same, some of the mechanics and the internal communications about it may change. Conducting a yearly review of your social media policy is a good practice to follow.

4. Crisis and Issues Management Plans

When it comes to crises, we often plan for the worst when an issue is imminent yet once the threat fades, we shelve the materials and they sit for months, even years. It’s important to stay on top of both your issues management and your crisis response plans. From the issues management perspective, companies face everything from cybersecurity breaches to employee misconduct and everything in between. However uncomfortable it can be to ask questions of preparedness of internal colleagues, it’s our responsibility as chief communicators to do it. And if the issue becomes a crisis that requires response, is the actual plan up-to-date? Too much changes operationally in a company to leave crisis response plans untouched for more than a year: staff members come and go, new locations open, suppliers change. With each major change, the crisis response plan must follow suit.

5. Internal Stakeholders Review

It’s often part of individual performance reviews to receive 360-degree feedback, but a department does not often hear aggregated feedback. Spend some time this month talking informally with your peers in marketing, human resources, legal, operations and finance. Make sure you share expectations with each other, and really listen to their feedback on your team’s performance and concerns. Nothing replaces having a cohesive network of peers as you move into a new year.

By now many of you may be thinking, “Our team is already strapped for resources, how can we possibly do more?” The reality is that most of the initiatives here can be accomplished in a few hours, or at most in a few days. Some of them can be delegated to an eager young colleague or outsourced. For just a few hours’ time in December, the benefits of starting strong can last throughout 2018.

Meghan Gross is a Vice President at Pierpont Communications with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications, reputation management, employee engagement and crisis communication. Based in the Eastern Corridor, Gross has worked with large companies in Boston, legal and other professional services firms in New York, associations in Washington, DC and more.