I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Planning future communications

It’s the last day of the month and almost the end of a financial year so it seems an appropriate time to think about planning. In particular, planning your communications efforts for the next six to twelve months.

Last June, I wrote a newsletter article about some of the advantages of preparing a communications calendar. (Yes, this is the promised reference to old content!)

For people who like to be impulsive and don’t like plans, a communications schedule may seem a little restrictive – I mean, if you have rigid rules in place, you can’t decide on a new spring campaign just because the smell of flowers inspires you, can you?

I disagree (and I personally am not fond of too many rules and structures either!) as a comms calendar should be a plan, not a hard and fast schedule. So if inspiration strikes, you do a spring campaign instead of whatever you had planned for September. Or if a major event or industry changes occur, you adjust your approach to suit. You still have control. And get to be creative.

planning year of dragon communications

Grab the Dragon's power by planning

For the routine comms items, though, having them prepared ahead of time actually frees up more time and mental energy to be creative and proactive.

Have you avoided something like a comms plan because you prefer to be creative and ‘go with the flow’? I’d love to hear your experiences when you do (or did) try planning your comms ahead of time.

Spending on your content made easier

Believe it or not, we’re almost half way through 2011 and the Australian (and others) financial year is about to end.

As you may be reviewing budgets now or planning ahead for a great 2012, I am offering everyone who reads my blog a 5% discount for any business writing project booked between now and 30 June (for completion by 1 August 2011).

This could be for a series of blog posts, updating your ‘about us’ page or ghost writing your eBook through to project managing your annual report. Simply email me with details of your project and mention you read this offer on my blog. Or leave a comment and I’ll email you from that.

Consider this my end of year sale and my gift to your business planning for 2012.

Crucial planning ahead for problems

Contingency planning and being prepared are important steps for a business owner – but steps that are not urgent so can easily be left behind in the day to day busyness of business and making a profit.

I was reminded of this topic today when I read an article called ‘When bad stuff happens’ – being about small business owners needing to think ahead to potential problems. And having procedures in place to cope when problems do arise.

Back in 1999, I had a contract to prepare some contingency plans for a major Australian company. We did various things, but one key task was preparing a checklist and contingency plan for the morning of 1 January 2000 – the day computers were going to fail and planes fall from the sky! The checklist included things such as ‘turn on a light switch. If it doesn’t work, try a second switch. If it still doesn’t work, look at neighbouring buildings and street lights – do they have power?’ We thought ahead and gave staff options to get all the information before emergency procedures were put into place.

So what sort of things do you need procedures for in your business? Obviously, that depends on your business, but some simple procedures you could start with are:

  • make sure someone else has a list of key contacts in case you are suddenly out of action. For example, my key clients and contacts are on a list with my husband so they would not be left wondering about me if I disappeared for a while
  • give someone else access to your PO box, or at least permission to get your mail redirected
  • prepare a list of essential business passwords so someone else can manage things – for instance, passwords for your blog, email and online shop administration
  • if you send out products, writing a procedure on how to package and send them is crucial for another person to be able to pick it up for you
  • if you are a service provider, establish some relationships now so there are people you can refer clients to or outsource work to if you can’t complete promised work
  • give your bookkeeper, accountant or a trusted person the means to be able to complete IAS/BAS statements for you, including how to pay any tax owing, so you avoid fines and problems with the ATO while you are ill or unavailable
  • prepare some standard responses to emails so the same message can be sent out even in your absence. Think about adding some of that common information to your website, too, to reduce how many people ask the same question – much easier for someone trying to fill in for you, but also a great time saver for you in the mean time!

If you start implementing some of these plans into your business, I’d love to hear about it – although I hope it never becomes necessary to use the procedures for a negative problem (using them because you win a trip around the world is a different story!)

Use your words and time wisely!

Be prepared

Back in April, I wrote about cuboree – a camp for Victorian cubs and leaders. I wrote that I expected to be able to use cuboree as examples in business behaviour and strength.

As I mentioned, cuboree was affected by strong winds that have since been called a cyclone. The entire campsite of about 4,500 people (mostly 8 – 10 year olds) was locked down for an entire afternoon.

It was certainly an experience to remember and thankfully there were no major injuries, but it wasn’t something anyone had expected or hoped for!

There were various things put in place over the storm period that kept us all safe. For instance, leaders were told a storm was coming the previous night so we could prepare our campsites and warn the cubs in the morning that there would be strong winds. Programs were adjusted to suit the conditions and regular updates were provided to pack leaders. The fact that there were high wind rated marquees available, as well as permanent buildings,  shows how the organisers had planned for problems. The cuboree website was already in place so it was simple for the camp to keep parents and others ‘at home’ informed about the cubs, rather than having 3,000 parents ringing or visiting the campsite.

In business, being prepared for possible problems is called contingency planning and is very important. Planning doesn’t mean you think the problem will arise, but makes it easier to deal with the problem if it did arise. It’s like having some paracetamol in the cupboard – you may never get a headache but if you do, you want the medicine quickly.

Contingency planing depends on the size and potential impact of the problem. For instance, running out of ink for the printer is probably covered by having a spare cartridge in the cupboard and ordering a new spare once it is used. However, the plan for how to cope if your business premises are burnt in a fire will be a lot more complex and detailed.

Some contingency planning is simple and practical – having spare ink for printers, spare light bulbs and a first aid kit – while others are much better if written out and added to the procedures.

How much contingency have you planned for in your business? Have you done this formally or just built up a supply of spare materials for instance?

I would love to hear some examples of how contingency planning has saved your business in some way, too.