After weeks of unseasonably warm weather, the much-talked-about precipitation finally came after the Sun dropped below the horizon. Yet it wasn’t the blanketing of snow we expected.
The so-called storm was a mix of steel-cold rain, tiny ice pellets that pinged off the windows and a gusty wind that made heavy branches sway and creak. Winter had arrived to welcome in the New Year, albeit in a different form than we’re used to in the lake-effect snow region of Western New York.
It was a different form – yet winter just the same. Taking a cue from Mother Nature and her propensity to change the rules as 2016 begins, maybe we as PR practitioners and communicators should do the same.
Perhaps it might be appropriate to avoid making resolutions and vow to break some of them.
Let’s start with some resolutions that seem to be on the perennial list for PR pros.
1. Devote More Time to Your Work. I love hard work and admire hard workers. But overdo it and the consequences will wipe out the gains you’ve otherwise made. Work smarter, aiming for efficiency and effectiveness over expended energy. There’s a panoply of tools available that can help raise your efficiency, although you will need to expend some time to learn how to use them. When you work more efficiently you’ll reduce the chances of burning out and of burning out those around you.
2. Follow the Playbook. My team always poses two questions regarding new ideas on the table: are they legal and are they ethical? If the answers are yes, then the other elements of the PR playbook are negotiable. Breaking long-established rules advances the industry, and is at the heart of innovation. Even academia is on your side – a new Harvard Business School working paper from Michael Housman and Dylan Minor indicates that stringent rule followers can add to workplace toxicity.
3. Build the Client Roster. On the agency side, there’s a constant push to add more brand logos to the client tableau. While there’s nothing wrong with gaining new clients, temper that push just a bit. Back off and focus more on organic growth, looking for ways to deepen the relationships and expand the business with organizations for which you already provide counsel.
4. Move Up the Ladder. Stop climbing for a moment and scan the world around you. Over the long term, what skills do you need to succeed? Is the prize at the top of your ladder what you really want? Consider making a lateral move this year, jumping onto a different set of rungs to diversity your experiences and gain new perspectives.
5. Win More Awards. Sure, nearly everyone likes being noticed by his and her peers. But some awards are meaningless – pretty, little pieces of crystal or acrylic that look nice on a shelf but do little to advance your business or your professional development. Focus on gaining recognition that truly matters – to your colleagues, your customers and your future.
6. Master New Technology. Exploring new platforms and mechanisms is commendable, if not necessary, in this crazy, fast-moving industry. But mastering them? Participate in the digital evolution and help shape how new tech applies to your objectives, yet turn your mastery goals to slightly more mature platforms about which you should have a comprehensive understanding.
7. Enrich Your Career. Flip or scroll through most business media these days, and a theme emerges: building your career is worth sacrificing most everything else. Yet many of the most seasoned and well-respected executives tell a different story. They emphasize the importance of surrounding yourself with friends and family and partaking in experiences that help you develop a more reasoned and holistic world view. This year, spend a little less time on your career, and a little more time on living life.
Now that you’re back in the office, put up that new calendar that your mother-in-law sent you. Down another almost- stale holiday cookie or two. Start commiserating about how springtime seems like a lifetime from now. And since there’s no time like the present, start breaking resolutions.
You won’t be alone. Various studies indicate that up to 75% of people break their resolutions within the first few weeks of the New Year. Eating that cookie probably just took points of your personal resolutions list, right?
So lower those harmful, ulcer-creating professional expectations for 2016. Look to the year ahead with an excitement and energy that comes from having a new perspective not on promises made, but promises broken.
CONTACT: Mike McDougall is a Fellow of PRSA. To his recollection, he has never made a New Year’s resolution – a practice he resolves to mischievously continue. @McDougallPR.
This article originally appeared in the January 4, 2016 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.