Creating a Sense of Urgency for Communicators

Your company is at a crucial inflection point. Change is disrupting your industry, but your current operation, processes and culture aren’t responding nimbly. Jump-starting a sense of urgency is vital, whether you want to initiate change or weather it. But urgency isn’t about speed. It’s about propulsion. When you establish clarity, efficiency and trust, everyone pulls together, and speed is the natural result. To navigate change, start with a clear look at organizational attitudes today and where you want them to be in the future. Here are a few tips on how to get there.

Identify the higher purpose, and market it internally. Being clear about where you’re headed—and why—and then setting a specific goal that advances that purpose can have a galvanizing effect on an organization. It may be elevating patient or customer satisfaction or getting new, safer products to market faster. Once you have that purpose, don’t just communicate it. Market it as aggressively internally as you might externally.

We are accustomed to ample resources and timelines.
The world seems turned upside down, and it throws us off our game.
Our company no longer can rely on brand strength to achieve growth. New competition, disruptive technology and an empowered consumer are barging in.
We are running faster than ever, and it’s not fast enough. It’s frustrating.
We react.
We don’t have direction from leadership. We don’t have the information we need. Who’s in charge?
Our future is not assured, but we’ve done OK so far.
The Future
We know we have to do more with less, so we have to be smarter.
Change doesn’t faze us, because we know it’s always happening.
The company’s vision is multifocal: • 3-5 year aspirations • Current-year achievements • Daily adversity adeptly handled
We happily embrace all levels of this vision. Disruptive change is part of the job description.
We anticipate.
Leadership has clear objectives and authority. We have the information we need. We can implement within 48 hours.
We must create our own future with the right vision and relentless adaptation as a way of life.

Get the right people activated, then empower them. If you have a team whose executives thrive on urgency, those people should become your models. Getting the right people activated can begin at the top, with the executive team, for example. How is your executive leadership group structured? Is there an opportunity to realign responsibilities? More than any communiqué, a change like that can convey that you’re serious.

Shed the distractions. The only thing more ineffectual than a lack of urgency is false urgency. Some people confuse being busy with having a sense of urgency, yet they are busy doing the wrong things.

To help employees understand the difference between true and false urgency, ask everyone in key leadership positions to make two lists every week: a “To Do” list and a “Not to Do” list.

Distribute the CEO’s “Not to Do” list for comparison. This will demonstrate what the most important things to do are and help people eliminate distractions.

Communicate relentlessly. If you want the buzz of urgency to permeate the company, have that buzz greet employees when they come in every morning. Make the atmosphere unexpected, interesting and warm. Make it so they never know what to expect next. That can mean something as large and permanent as establishing a “fishbowl” conference room smack in the center of the lobby.

Bring the outside in. Complacency is the enemy of urgency. It’s easy for people at all levels to get lulled into a false sense of security when they aren’t reminded of the outside factors that drive the need for change.

Change will go on with or without you. Your choice is whether to accept the challenge. Those companies that act with a sense of urgency will find themselves on the positive side of change and ready for the next turn.


Karen Albritton
Karen Albritton

Karen Albritton is president of Capstrat. She can be reached at




This article originally appeared in the November 10, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.