While down with Covid (which is why there wasn’t an article last week!), I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook. My head hurt too bad to focus on anything bigger, like a book, and I was already bored with Netflix. So I took to social media to pass the time until the Covid fatigue took over, and I needed another nap.
I read an article in The Atlantic (one of my favorite magazines!) titled, “In the Age of Ozempic, What’s the Point of Working Out?” Giving in to the clickbait and feeling myself get worked up, I read the story. While it’s not really about giving up on exercise—it’s a feel-good story about taking care of yourself—I researched why this headline would even be a thing.
Turns out, lots of media outlets are touting the benefits of Ozempic and saying that you can be skinny without exercise and good nutrition.
Soapbox forthcoming…THIS IS NOT THE POINT OF EXERCISE. Yes, the side benefit of exercise is that you’ll be fit (not necessarily skinny, which has been a lifelong lesson for me), but it’s not the point.
Not to mention the whole idea that now we’re telling young girls and women that not only does society expect you to be skinny, but you can take a pill to get there without consequence or understanding what you’re putting inside your body—or the long-term effects it will have. Just be skinny! You don’t need to exercise! You don’t need to eat well! Make it happen!
This culture we have of getting rich fast, getting skinny without work, and retiring at age 25 is too much. It’s not how things work and certainly doesn’t work long-term. And yet, we’re always looking for the easy button.
You may be wondering what this has to do with a podcast about communications, and I promise I’m getting there.
Communications Is About Consistency
We often joke at home and work that if I’m in a special mood, someone will say to me, “Hey, have you been on your bike yet today?” The answer is almost always no, which is why I’m in that mood. But it is also a nice way to tell me I need to get on my bike to straighten my mind and mood.
That’s because while, yes, I am fit, it’s more than just being skinny. It affects my mood, which affects my job, my team, our clients, and my family. And, just like with anything else, it’s a lot of hard work that, some days, I would be happy to skip. But if I do, everyone around me knows it. Grumpy pants.
Lots of friends have names for me, such as “beast” or “machine,” but the truth of the matter is I’m consistent. Even on the days I have no motivation, I exercise. I often tell myself, “Just get on the bike. Or just do some bodyweight strength.” And, by the time I’ve warmed up, I’m ready to do a real workout.
And this, my friends, is the name of the game: consistency. It’s not about a magic pill to make you skinny, getting rich quickly, or retiring at age 25. It’s about doing something consistently that will improve your life.
Communications Is a Marathon
This leads me to communications. How often have you heard (or even said) that communications is a marathon, not a sprint?
I have a coaching client I started working with in January. She runs marketing for a start-up and has a team of three people. She and I work together on strategy, to set goals, and to ensure they’re focused on the right things.
The other day, we were reviewing month-end goals, and she said, “Why aren’t we having any results? This is so frustrating!”
I made her pull up her December numbers because I wanted her to see that they are having results and to see how far they’ve come since December. Their growth has actually been incredible, but she was focused on the trees instead of the forest. When we pulled out and looked at the bigger picture, she realized they’ve come a long way.
Then I had her pull up the data from a year ago in the same timeframe, and she discovered they are crushing results. Not only are they doing really well from a marketing perspective, they have a really nice inbound marketing program set up. It’s far exceeding the expectations we set with the executive team—and with ourselves.
You Must Set Realistic Expectations
Which is a nice reminder that you can’t get rich quick. You can’t get skinny from a pill. And you can’t retire at age 25.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. You will outpace some miles and underpace others. And that’s OK! Pull back and look at the bigger picture to see what kinds of results you’re having versus focusing on the one tiny area that isn’t performing as well as you had thought.
This metaphorical journey that your communications program is a marathon, not a sprint, requires a steady pace, a clear vision, and resilience to achieve long-term goals. Just like my client, who was staring at a month’s worth of data and claiming there weren’t any results.
It also requires setting expectations with the leadership team who buys into the overnight success mantra. Because we all do or there wouldn’t be pills that claim to make you skinny or MLMs or bros on the internet telling you you can work four hours a week and make eight figures.
It’s your job to set expectations.
The Power of Patience
Patience is a virtue—one that is really challenging for me. I understand the hypocrisy in my telling you that communications is a marathon, not a sprint, and then admitting I have no patience. Sometimes you create content around the things you need to hear most.
That said, I work really hard at patience, particularly when it comes to the work we do with our clients. Rushing to deliver work without adequate thought or planning can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and communication breakdowns.
This almost always comes into play when you’re in a meeting with the Big Boss, and they say that we need to really buckle down and focus on sales in the coming months. Everyone is responsible for it. You start scrambling for things to do that might bring in a quick sale.
Never works. This is a marathon, not a sprint. There is no overnight success. Unless you are marketing or communicating for widgets, it’s highly unlikely that you can create a campaign that will reach the organization’s sales goals tomorrow, next week, or even next month.
Have patience and remind your boss or your client to do the same. You will have success, but it requires consistency and staying the course.
The Need for Strategy
I no longer run marathons—I just didn’t enjoy running as much as I love cycling—but I do spend hours in the saddle of my bike and ride Centuries (100 miles) and even longer. I once did a 400-mile race, which was both exhilarating and exhausting. Truthfully, I’ve only been that cold one other time (it was 35 degrees and rained the entire day), and that was at a Bears game in late December.
But that’s not the point. The point is, when I race—just like running a marathon—I plan it out meticulously. I spend months preparing for all of the time I’ll spend on the bike—from how to keep my bum from hurting to what I’ll eat and drink to keep me upright. I spend a lot of time in the saddle on training rides. I do endurance rides to build my stamina, and I do hardcore rides to build my racing ability. It takes months and months and months.
The same goes for creating a successful communications plan that will provide perceived overnight success but takes years to accomplish in reality. You have to build a plan and then meticulously implement it. You will look at data every month, and you will tweak. When my coaching client told me they didn’t have any results, it was because she was looking at a week’s worth of data where they didn’t have any form fills. One week. When I had her pull back and look at the bigger picture, she realized she was being silly. Now, if she’d had a month of no form fills, we’d know there was a problem. But that wasn’t the case.
Execute your plan, but don’t freak out when there are a couple of days or a week without seemingly any results. Just like when I ride my bike, I have fantastic days, and I have dismal days. I get on the bike even after the dismal days because I have a plan I’m executing.
Consistency Is Key
My coach likes to tell us all the time that motivation is fleeting, but consistency is discipline. Which pretty much means that you won’t be motivated to get on your bike every day, but if you’re consistent about doing so, you’ll see results, with or without motivation.
The same goes for your communications program. Consistency is what builds results, and the side effect is that you build trust and credibility, too. As you well know, it takes something like 14-17 times for a person to see or hear a message before they take action. Building brand awareness requires repeated exposure to key messages and a brand in general. That doesn’t happen overnight.
Adapting to the Environment
In a marathon, runners must adapt to changing conditions such as weather, terrain, and competitors. I had to adapt to 35 degrees and rain during my 400-mile race. My poor toes were so cold!
Similarly, effective communicators must be agile and adaptable to the evolving communication landscape. The rise of artificial intelligence, for instance, is going to forever change the way we do our jobs—for the better.
As you look at new trends and technologies, you must be quick to adapt, but also understand that some things are a flash in the pan (remember, Clubhouse?). Your job is to evaluate, test, have patience, create consistency…and then know when to abandon ship or to keep pushing forward. The ability to pivot and learn will be something you will always use.
Successful Long-Term Communications
Successful communications is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, strategic planning, consistency, and adaptability. It does not happen overnight. There isn’t some easy button you can push or a pill you can take and have a pipeline full of leads. It takes time, just like anything else.
One of our hardest jobs in all of this is convincing executives to bide their time as you build a world-class and strategic communications program with patience, consistency, and adaptability.
It takes time. A lot of time. And you will have setbacks, which will allow you to tweak and adapt. But stay the course. It works if you always remember you’re out to win the long and steady race.