5 time-wasting exercises that bog down communicators

If social media is any indication, the fastest-growing sport isn’t
pickleball, it’s “getting the most done before 9 a.m.”

Lately I’ve been inundated with stories telling me to wake long before
sunrise and dive into my to-do list so that, by the start of the workday,
I’m ready to really start working.

If you love setting your alarm for 5 a.m., go for it, but here’s a better
idea: Rid yourself of “busy work” activities that plague PR pros during
business hours. Cut back on these time-wasters, and you’ll have more
opportunity to think and do great work for your clients or executives.

Start with these five:

1. Waiting for approvals on everything.

Sometimes we send an idea or plan of attack for that crucial buy-in,
knowing we’ll never hear back.

Save yourself from drafting that initial email, plus the many follow-ups
and the non-committal hallway conversations. You’re the PR expert, and your
responsibility extends to the brand, not to one person with a title. Put
your idea into action. If it fails, no one is the wiser; if it works, then
you’ll have done something great.

Executives are far more likely to say yes to doing a high-profile
interview, versus whether they’d like to do one.

Salespeople don’t get fired for selling. You won’t, either, for doing what
you’re supposed to be doing: protecting and enhancing your organization’s

2. Drafting a content calendar that will never see the light of day.

The larger and more sophisticated the organization, the more important
content calendars become. People need clarity when dealing with multiple
channels and a lot of copy. In startups or organizations, though,
creating color-coded calendars is just busy work.

Here’s a better idea: Dump the fancy template and come up with 10 meaty,
original ideas for content with deadlines; then commit to producing and
sharing them on time.

[RELATED: Take a three-minute communicator evaluation to see how you stack up]

3. Converting boring internal material into boring social media posts.

LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook offer a lot of room to play with,
but they are not content dumping grounds. The risks of posting anything
less than outstanding material are high, given fickle algorithms and the
intense competition for attention.

So, if you’re asked to take something that just isn’t worth sharing, be it
a jargon-filled technical manual or yet another event reminder, just say
no. Don’t have that authority? Then make sure you have all those great
content ideas ready to go, plus some other assignments, so your pipeline is
nicely filled, leaving little room for filler.

4. Embarking on an epic agency search.

Reaching out to 10 agencies feels good at first. You want to be thorough
and diligent, and to ensure that you choose wisely, but the bigger your
search, the longer it will take.

Instead, make life easy. Ask around, get recommendations, do some research.
Find a handful of agencies that have good reputations and that have clearly
done the kind of work you want to do. Then call them, and take it from

5. Trying to be opportunistic when you’re clearly not.

You’re reading the news Monday morning and there it is—a breaking story
that is not about you but is nonetheless relevant to your company’s
expertise and opens the door for you to provide commentary. It’s the
perfect opportunity for your spokesperson.

Two days later, after getting approvals (see above), slowly drafting and
revising a pitch, and meeting with your team to figure out who will do
what, you’re finally ready to go—just in time for no one to care.

Rapid response when news breaks requires preparation during slow times. Use
that time. If you can’t/don’t, or if your culture moves slowly, ask
yourself honestly whether all that time and effort are worth it.

In our fast-moving industry, getting bogged down in needless exercises
wastes time and makes us less effective. Committing to moving with speed
and ignoring background noise is a great way to get more done.

If nothing else, it sure beats waking up a few hours after you go to sleep.

A version of this post first appeared on the

Provident Communications blog

(Image via)


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