Winning and losing

It was only until later in my career that I became involved in campaigns. When I heard the head of the business, I worked for talk about a need for a campaign it sounded exciting. It was something more than the day-to-day activities that I was working on. It had a clear purpose, and it was important to the business. It wasn’t an announcement, and it wasn’t advocacy on one single policy. There was no set timeframe, and it could last for years.

Yes, the company wanted to run a campaign of critical importance and there was a clear need for leadership of a range of activities to deliver an important outcome for the business and in fact the industry.

So, putting my best foot forward, I put my hand up. And I never looked back. When I was subsequently approached by another company in a very different industry to run a series of integrated campaigns to help grow their business, again my excitement was hard to hide.

There is nothing like being involved in the thrust and parry of a good campaign. In the field of Communications and External Affairs, you get the chance to try new things, to be innovative, and to work with speed.

You have mini wins throughout a campaign and of course some setbacks. But because of the pace, you and the team around you may experience a failure, but you will fail fast, learn and then adapt.

Ultimately, a good campaign requires early strategic planning. And from a stakeholder engagement perspective this can’t be done separately from the campaign team. To create a good strategy and one with a change of winning requires the function to be embedded within the broader team. It requires those with functional skills to look outside their discipline to learn about the issue, product or idea that is the core of the campaign. It requires a deep understanding of the stakeholders involved. The customer, the influencers, the antagonists, and the competitors.

And this learning doesn’t just happen at the beginning of a campaign, it is continuous. Every engagement, every piece of intelligence, needs to be understood and reacted to.

Every competitor tactic, every opponent’s positioning needs to be analysed. In a campaign you can’t afford to be outmanoeuvred.

At times you will come across those who think you are not doing enough, or not heading in the right direction. You don’t have the right relationship with a critical journalist, or your advertising isn’t reaching the right specific Minister, your social media isn’t hitting the right buttons. And, you and the team simply need to consider the advice, make judgements quickly and continue to execute.

I think I also like campaigns because there are clear winners and losers. The outcome is clear. The energy and sacrifice are certainly worth it when you are on the right side. But the lessons, the friendships and the experiences are also never forgotten when your campaign is not successful.

And while operational excellence is not something to be discounted – hey give me a good campaign every day of the week!