We all know the power of planning. Our Twitter feeds are filled with ideas on how to plan, what to plan, and when to plan. We know it should be a priority. The reality is, it is really difficult to gather the right people in one room during the summer months with enough focus to generate a comprehensive communications plan for your school. Unexpected emergencies arise, vacations and much deserved family time take precedent, and other obstacles enter your daily life. But I think people’s biggest reason school marketers avoid planning is not logistics, but rather one word that strikes fear for so many people: accountability.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, when we have a clear plan laid out and goals set, we all of a sudden have a heck of a lot more accountability in our life. And that can feel uncomfortable. My hope as our team at Proctor Academy works on our communication and marketing goals for the 2015-2016 year is that we are energized and challenged by the accountability we are putting in our lives, and not afraid of it. Here are a few steps you and your school marketing team can take to overcome a fear of accountability:
Take Time to Stop Pulling Weeds and Think Strategically
During our team’s annual summer retreat (just a day-long deep dive into our goals and plans for the year), we are able to elevate ourselves out of the day-to-day weeds that dominate our lives. We are able to think globally about our school, our brand, and our efforts to enhance that brand. We are able to identify the biggest untapped opportunities in front of us, and make a concrete plan to attack those opportunities. Unless you stop pulling the weeds that keep popping up in front of you, you are never able to press pause and elevate yourself to the level of strategic thinking you need to operate effectively as a school marketer. (Here’s a little tip: the weeds will still be there whether or not you stop pulling and think strategically for a few minutes.)
Take Time to Know Yourself
No school is perfect. No communications/marketing team is perfect. And Lord knows each of us as individuals is not perfect. But unless we spend time in self-reflection (as a team and as individuals), we operate in a place of fear of those shortcomings being exposed. As a team leader, you must have the confidence to know where you fall short of your team’s needs, and then empower others around you to help raise you up. When each member of our team is able to self-reflect on talents, abilities, AND shortcomings, our team is able to optimize our effectiveness by ensuring each of us is doing what we do best. It is when we pretend we have no weaknesses that our team begins to fail. As a part of your planning process, encourage your team to self-reflect about both their individual performance/anxieties and the team’s collective performance/shortcomings. Do not back away from weaknesses, embrace them, make a plan how to surround yourself with those who complement your weaknesses in order to be the best we can be. We don't self-reflect because we are afraid of what we will see and how much we will have to change, we self-reflect because of how much better we might be able to be.
Take Time To Remember What Fuels You
A leader must help his team find the passion in their lives and infuse a deeper meaning into the day-to-day tasks that make up our life as a school marketer. If we become too bogged down with what we are writing, the social media posts we are monitoring, or the collateral we are designing, we miss out on the real opportunity to affect people's lives. We must take time to stop and remember why we do what we do, why we work at a school alongside amazingly talented students and faculty, why we work crazy schedules during the year and attend school athletic events on our ‘nights off’. We must pause to reflect on how we are fueled by the schools in which we work, and allow that energy, passion, and drive to fuel our work at the school we collectively serve. It is only when we are able to reflect inwardly that we are truly able to move forward and grow as both individuals and as a team.
Take Time to Develop a Plan That Will Hold You Accountable
Once all this self-reflection takes place, make sure you still have time left to develop a comprehensive plan that will create all the accountability your team is now ready to embrace! By understanding yourself, accountability will become far less scary. In fact, maybe it’s just the competitive athlete in me, but accountability drives me to continuously raise the bar personally, and as a team.
Check out this By Example post to learn more about the intricate, comprehensive communications and marketing plan we have set in place for the 2015-2016 school year. It will remain a work in progress, but by gather the right voices in the room and working through an overarching plan, we are able to remain agile and spend our time and energy during the school year being creative and capitalizing on spontaneous communication opportunities with prospective families, current families, and donors.