The longer you lead a communications team the danger grows that you default automatically to what’s worked in the past. Of course the past is where your successes lie but it becomes a problem when it stifles the creativity of your staff and fails you for the future.
That’s why good PR leaders are always thought leaders with the habit of spotting the trends likely to impact their organisations, teams, even their own careers.
Leaders have little time so if you’re just surviving the working week how do you find space to think beyond your inbox?
A good start is to open your diary and schedule regular opportunities to explore how PR is changing and what that might mean for your team tomorrow. Intentionally reserve time to pause and ponder.
Daily (15 minutes)
15 minutes of quiet time can move you beyond the tyranny of a daily to-do list. Over a cup of coffee – alone and with your phone face down – question if what you are doing today is the best use of your time. Examine what lessons the day holds and how they can help create better outcomes tomorrow. There is never be enough time for daily reflection but just fifteen minutes can be a decent interval to think beyond the immediate.
Weekly (30 minutes)
Once a week engage with a long-form piece on the future of communications or developments in the industry you serve. Read an article, hear a podcast or watch a video that informs and motivates you. The Internet is full of forward thinking content and some of my favourites are:
- PRIA blog – a daily digest of trends and how-to information.
- Tactics – the newspaper of the Public Relations Society of America.
- Communications World – the magazine of the International Association of Business Communicators.
- For Immediate Release Podcast Network – 26 communications and future-related podcasts.
- Harvard Business Review – a terrific place for ideas on innovation, leadership, business and management and a great resource for aspiring leaders.
Monthly (2 hours)
Each month meet with peers for an hour – perhaps over lunch – and learn what other PR professionals are doing, the issues on their plates and importantly developments that excite them. This monthly group can be your very own master class on tuning into the future.
Likewise attending professional events can alert you to how others are thinking about the future. The Public Relations Institute of Australia, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Australian Marketing Institute cater to different communicator categories but each runs regular lunches or seminars on emerging trends. These are chances to network, swap information and be stimulated by ideas from others.
Quarterly (1+ hour)
Every three to four months arrange to meet someone you admire or respect as an industry thinker or who succeeds by operating at the outer edge of the possible. Sit down with the express purpose of learning from their ideas on trends and developments.
It does not matter if you don’t know them. Tweet, email or call to set up a time to talk. They are worth pursuing because they are a rich source of ideas and let you compare and contrast their achievements with your own efforts. Genuine industry experts and outliers are excited by what they do and nearly always happy to swap ideas unless of course you are a direct competitor.
Books are also wonderful sources of new ideas so reading a professionally engaging book every quarter is a good habit for any PR leader. Currently Amazon Australia has more than 1100 titles on public relations and communications so at least one should excite your thinking.
Annually (1-2 days)
Take time every year to attend a professional conference. Push back from your routine to mingle with peers, expand your networks and meet individuals and companies bringing fresh ideas, products and services to the practice of PR. Conferences are remarkable opportunities to interrogate innovative minds and draw energy from fellow professionals. Bringing back, sharing and applying insights can set you apart and accelerate your drive to be a thought leader.
Spread over twelve months these daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual measures add up to around 135 hours (less of course book reading time.) And the best part. They only involve modest expenditure compared to your future earnings and satisfaction as a PR leader.