Strategic communications planning removes uncertainty and reduces the risk of brands getting lost in a crowded market place.All at sea - blog - 1

When renowned mountaineer Joe Simpson plummeted into a crevasse on Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, eventually extricating himself only to face a horrendous crawl with a shattered leg over some of the worst terrain on earth to reach base camp, he could never have imagined how many people with no previous interest in climbing would be fascinated by his story.

The book which resulted, Touching the Void, gave rise in turn to new opportunities for Simpson, including motivational speeches, often delivered to largely corporate audiences – those who found parallels in the way Simpson tackled what would otherwise have appeared to be a wholly insurmountable challenge, with the long term and complex challenges faced in business.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, as the saying goes.

Many other personalities from the world of so called extreme sports, adventurers, explorers, climbers, rowers, cyclists and more, have also found these parallels and exploited them successfully, proving the value that wider society still places on those who step outside the norm, storytellers, those who help us to see the world from a new perspective.

But it is not necessary to have rowed the Atlantic or cycled across a continent, to take much of worth from the great outdoors and apply it to other areas in life – desk based nine to fives included.

Working towards an advanced sea kayak leadership award, I was struck how similar in principle were many of the challenges to those I tackle from behind a desk. I may not have to land through big surf to get into the office, but once there, I need to make sure our client’s strategy is right. I need to profile our people, match tasks to abilities and personalities and while the M&S strapline boldly states there isn’t one, I always need a Plan B. Ultimately I need to ensure the team works effectively and efficiently to achieve the client’s objective.

On the sea – and a more dynamic environment in which to test one’s skills would be hard to find – these two words are key. Effective and efficient.

Inefficient kayakers tire quickly. They struggle to reach their destination and miss many of the things they want to see, perhaps the very things which inspired their journey to begin with. Ineffective leaders of kayakers cause delays. They create tension and introduce opportunities for errors.

And ineffective leaders of inefficient kayakers put people at risk – the tired kayaker capsizes, the ineffective leader taking too long to put the paddler back in their boat. Meanwhile a swiftly flowing tide has pushed the group into a dangerous zone and our infective leader is unprepared for this new scenario.

Obvious stuff yes?

But as a marketing and communications consultancy, it is remarkable how many businesses we meet, with no clear strategy and no plan when it comes to marketing their proposition. The sea may be a vast and seemingly empty place, but it is just as easy to lose your way here, as it is in a crowded market place. Without a clear strategy, everyone gets lost.

Now I’m not suggesting every marketer or business leader should immediately go sea kayaking. Seriously, please don’t – I want to get away from you all at the weekend.

But perhaps it might be worth picturing all the elements of your latest marketing campaign as a group of kayakers heading down a swiftly flowing tidal rapid or white water river. What happens when one capsizes? How will you conduct the rescue? What will happen to your other paddlers? How will you make effective use of the resources at your disposal? Will others capsize as your attention is diverted? What will the overall impact of the time required to make sure all individuals are upright, safe and dry, actually be? And if you can’t continue as before, what is your Plan B?

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.