One of the most fascinating parts of my work is the ability to look across clients at any given moment and know that I will always spot similarities between their most pressing communications challenges. Almost across the board, we are seeing people and organizations struggle with one very specific issue that needs to be resolved: focus.
In some cases, it’s a challenge of focusing in on the right messages (“Who are we, what is our impact, and how we can say it more succinctly?”). In other cases, it’s a challenge of focusing on the right activities (“We’re doing so many different things, but we don’t know how to prioritize any of it.”). Others still are struggling with how to best focus on the future (“Everything we’re doing is reactive, and we can’t focus long enough to be proactive.”).
Focus is indeed hard to achieve, especially when everything right in front of you feels so urgent that the idea of slowing down to prioritize feels impossible.
But with a little muscle memory, focusing your words, your actions and your futures can be much more manageable. Here are a few of our favorite tips:
- On focusing your words: The words we use have a major impact in getting someone to understand what we’re saying. Spend less time talking around an issue or peppering your language with too much technical-speak and force yourself to get to the heart of what really matters. Also, ask a handful of people one step removed from your organization how they describe your work. You’ll likely find the answers contain some of the most authentic elements of your mission: the kinds of words that have been right in front of you, but got buried in complexity somewhere along the way.
- On focusing your activities: If you’re in the camp of always wondering “Why are we doing this press release?” or “What are we really getting by pumping out all of those newsletters?,” maybe it’s time to conduct an assessment of your communications channels. What kind of return on time and investment are you getting from each, and what kind of conversations are they helping you lead? If you can’t answer those questions, that time is better spent elsewhere. If something’s not working for you, then don’t do it anymore. Simplify the communications tools you’re using and instead focus on how well you’re using them. Your messages will in fact have a better chance of sticking.
- On focusing on the future: No organization has ever had transformational growth without staying true to their core beliefs. That kind of determined focus is not easy, but creating a path to the future requires that the entire team understand the vision. While strategic direction will likely be guided from the top, helping the entire team to realize those future goals in a tangible way is a great first step for foundation building. Then you can feel confident focusing on the here and now, knowing that each task along the way is getting you closer to that ultimate goal.
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