Harvard Business Review Today published a blog posting by Jeff Sibel on how forethought or forward planning separates the good companies from the great companies. In his posting, Jeff says that great companies constantly “chip away at the edges of uncertainty, to make bets based on past experience.”
To me, Jeff’s posting reinforces the need for PR Professionals to “product test” all their Messages before releasing it to stakeholders. Unfortunately, this crucial step is often missed on the basis of time sensitivity i.e. need to get ahead of the media cycle. While I agree that getting ahead of the media cycle is important, PR Professionals need to balance the two. A “poor” Message communicated on time is likely to do more harm than a “good” Message communicated slightly late. One only needs to look at the botched branding of the Chevy Nova in Spanish-speaking countries, where “No va” means “It doesn’t go,” to see the importance.
Hence, my message to PR Professionals is to test, test and test all Messages before their release. While a full-scale focus group involving a representation of your stakeholders is ideal if time permits, a quick poll of the people in your office (or with an independent consultant) will usually identify important tweaks to enhance the effectiveness of the Message.
Like Jeff, I believe that forethought (or more specifically in this scenario – product testing) is what separates the great PR Professionals from the merely good.