How To Unlock Complex PR Briefs To Achieve Strategic Organisational Goals
By Godfrey Adejumoh
There are briefs, and there are briefs. Some come easy and straight forward while there are a few that are not, rather, they come with complexity and if you permit me ambiguity and very steep business targets.
I like to focus on the latter kind of briefs, share some learnings, and perhaps possible solutions I now think about on hindsight. First, let me attempt to give a description of how these briefs come. They come directly from the management of the organisation not from the brand managers. This usually is a response to a business facing a certain degree of pressure either from a performance measurements scale or from a competition trying to muscle them out of a particular space that they hitherto have dominated or want to dominate. They are come with goals that are high, steep and at times not very clear in the way they have bee articulated.
As a PR practitioner and strategic communications consultant, the first thing to do in response to briefs of this nature is to unpack, declutter and create SMART goals for them. How far you will succeed in the execution of this brief is a function of how well you have unpacked, declutter, and make the goals SMART. Clearly, the opposite is not doing any of these.
It is important to call out that succeeding in unlocking complex briefs has a lot and if not everything to do with your ability to compartmentalize the brief by seeking to understand and articulate what are the things to place under strategic and operations buckets of execution. Identify who are the stakeholders needed for the projects, understand, and put together a team for the project, and last but not the least, have a clear view of the project’s end from the beginning. I must add that it is not always easy to see the end from the beginning. But this is very important if the project must be executed with some level of confidence to achieve the desired organisational objective. Where this is achieved, you will need to execute the project backward from a strategic leadership perspective. This means it will be easy to articulate the issues, that range from resources to personnel, timelines, monitoring and evaluation, stakeholders engagement and more.
Let me now share one of the complex briefs I learnt from in my journey so far. It is the MTN Foundation (MTNF), What Can We Do Together (WCWDT). This was a first of its kind initiative for the business. Prior to that time, the focus was on education, health, and economic empowerment, where they have and continue to do incredible works to impact lives and adding value to the nation. The approach for the WCWDT project selection was different from the existing focus areas of the MTNF. As the name is, What Can We Do Together was a question thrown open to Nigerians asking them how they wanted the MTNF to intervene in their communities and improve the quality of life. This automatically made the ownership to be people led by the nominees following the advertised instructions in the media on nominating projects for implementation in their communities. After a careful review processes of projects selections and verification exercises, the selected projects were implemented, and the nominees were celebrated as heroes and heroines who brought positive changes to their communities.
A big pie of that project was the need for strategic amplification to internal and external stakeholders. This was seated squarely on in the space of the Corporate Affairs department to deliver. The ask came like a must do and this must be leveraged from an economic impact base strategy that drives the narratives of integrity, demonstrate how Nigerians who by just following the application instructions could change their communities for the better, and these nominees were to be positioned as heroes and heroines of the communities who did good by making it possible for MTNF to deploy the initiatives.
What was complex about the brief was the multi-dimensional buckets it had that included but not limited to ability to highlight in our strategic communications the various stages of the initiatives – ideation, announcement/call for entries, project selection/verification exercise, making the nominees the heroes and heroines of the communities to all stakeholders – traditional rulers, state and Federal House of Representatives members and Senators.
Maybe or maybe not, this might not sound complex to you, but it was to me and I confess that in the heat of it, I did not have all the answers required at certain stages. The only thing I confess I had was just listening and listening to stakeholders on the project. I listened to their spoken and unspoken body language. Perhaps this was my first biggest break to unlock the brief and cascaded it with clarity to the team. The next major break for me after listening and listening more and more, was to assemble the team to crack the brief. A multi-agency meeting that cuts across events management, creatives, PR, video content service providers and on ground officers for verification of nominated projects.
The beauty of the team was instant alignment of strategy and clear understanding of our inter-dependencies to succeed together despite the diversity of the technicalities everyone brought on board. This united us and with the simple understanding that each of us is a pie that make a whole called WCWDT. Indeed, we could not be working on what Can We Do Together and not be together. In the long run and after the strategy session we were able to simplify the project to it stages of; announcement/call for entries, verification exercise, installation, and commissioning. The icing of the cake was the regional dinner and award night that held across the geo-political zones of the country with the grand finale being in Lagos.
I will not forget how the team got every nominee to be in attendance by arriving 24hours to the event, accommodation, and all travel details by land and air, sorted out with allowances paid to ensure their comfort and wellbeing. The beauty of the narratives was in the proper coverage of the projects stages from start to finish to produce short videos that were deployed at the event, on traditional and social media channels to highlight the impact of the project to the communities. I will not forget the priceless story told by a lady nominee in Kolo community in Bayelsa state for a borehole. That story of how they drank from the same stream where they washed and had their bath gave us all goose bumps at the reviewing stage. It remains my best story of emotional connection between a brand and its community of operation.
At the event as planned at the onset stakeholders from across the state and national government, community leaders, traditional rulers were present to celebrate the heroes and heroines of their communities. The media coverage was strategically orchestrated to start from local presence in each region to scale up to national media coverage across print, broadcast and social media. The strategy was to make the narratives a show and tell for the communities, local media was a huge part of the conversation while national media channels helped to further amplify the narratives.
After a very exhaustive project that demanded the best and all, from us in phase 1 and 2, 400 communities, 347 LGAs across the country were impacted directly. In the measurement and evaluation, the donation of 40 transformers, 40 boreholes, 14,200 school furniture, household items donations to 66 orphanages and medical supplies to 80 primary healthcare centres impacted about 10million Nigerians directly and indirectly. This outcome indeed demonstrated that by working together companies and communities can achieve incredible life changing results. The WCWDT was an initiative launched in 2015 as part of the 10 years anniversary of MTNF. It was conceived as something refreshingly different to impact communities across the country by connecting to their critical needs. I dare say it achieve its objective.
My take in unlocking complex PR briefs that communications strategists must unbox themselves from their conventional knowledge of their practice irrespective of positions and experiences. You cannot undermine the power of listening to both the spoken and unspoken words from the management. Having the right team plays a major success factor. As the project lead, you must lead with quality, clarity of strategic direction and organizational objective in focus to achieve for the business and its stakeholders. Have a clear understanding that you will never have all the resources you need at your disposal. You need to learn to manage and optimize what is available as budget to achieve set goals. Your narrative must be well-crafted to connect all stakeholders in storytelling. It is extremely important that you manage your internal stakeholders properly with alignments, controls, sign offs and all due processes adequality followed to the letter. Where and when in doubt seek clarity and remain guided. Above all, stay humble, stay focused and be very professional in the discharge of your duties. Make your team to connect to each other irrespective of their difference in the services they render. Everyone must be valued, appreciated, and given the right support to succeed on the job. I will not forget to call out again that listening and listening more and more is a skill to have on the job to unlock complexities.
I believe there are no briefs too complex to be unpacked. That is why we are here to do the job. In complexities we discover the best of ourselves. In comfort zone we at best complacent and cease to grow. Career for me is about adding value to your organisation by constantly learning, stretching, developing new capabilities to grow yourself and be positioned for greater opportunities of life-long impact. We all need to be future-fit and future-proof to stay relevant and ahead of the curve as much as possible to keep unlocking complex briefs and more.
Godfrey Adejumoh is a PR and Communications Strategist.