A marathon is 26.2 miles long. You start strong, adrenaline and excitement pumping through your body. After months of training you think the beginning is easy. Water stations are passed and you take a few gulps to keep the water flowing in your body. Mile 6 arrives and you begin your first gel pouch. The rhythmic sound of the shoes keeps moving your steadily forward.
Looking down at your watch you notice a decline in pace, which is to be expected. However, you’re only at mile 10. You shake it off and keep trucking along. Mile after mile your body starts to give way. More fluids are grabbed at each station and shake out the arms more frequently.
Mile 20 is achieved, but the heat is more intense than anticipated. Moving your body forward is the only goal you have at this point. You know that you have to adjust your expectation of what your time will be. In the last half-mile, muscles begin to cramp. Giving up is not an option at this point. The finish line is around the bend and you keep fighting to put everything you have into this race.
Then it’s all over. You fall into the arms of a volunteer that guides you to recovery. Once you gain the ability to form a logic thought, you mentally debrief. What improvements can be done for the next race already flood your brain, and it gets you excited for round two.
Marathon runners and communication professionals don’t seemingly overlap in processes. I beg to differ. I believe that the race described above mirrors the struggles communicators face in the execution of a campaign.
You prepare through research and planning prior to rolling out a new communication strategy, and a marathoner trains before their race. Preparation is key for both. Without a solid foundation, the execution will fall flat.
I hope that you have initial excitement to commence a communication plan that received hours of your attention. The start of something new is always exciting. Moving forward is easy when the with the passion and no roadblocks have been hit yet. All of that begins to change when something goes wrong.
Not preparing for the heat of the day is like a tragedy happening on the day of your big reveal. You can’t control everything that will happen. All you can do is drink more water to compensate for the unexpected.
Just when you think you’ve finally made it to the finish, one final hiccup emerges. All there is left is power through. You can handle anything that comes your way. Settling is not acceptable, but adjusting expectations is reality. Achievements still resulted.
When there is finally a moment to sit, your brain is still circling. You have to take the time to debrief and analyze. Understand what went wrong, what went right, and how to get better for round two.