TOP Talk

Plan for Uncertainty: 3 Ways Brand Communications Can Become Agile

Posted February 17, 2021 By Sue Parente

Topics: Thought Leadership, Measurement and Analytics, Media FAQs


Yellow, curvy road ahead sign by a desert road


Flexibility, agility, adaptability. It’s more important than ever for brands to incorporate these elements into their communication strategies after the events of 2020. Facing a devastating pandemic, a nationwide movement for racial equality, and a halt to life as we know it, brands couldn’t just sit back and stick to their regularly scheduled programming. 

An agile approach to communications has always been a critical success factor, and in 2020 that became even more evident. While the past year tested our teams with all that it could throw at us, we’ve learned a few lessons on how to stay agile in uncertain times along the way.

Plan for Every Contingency … but Don’t Get Too Attached

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “The best defense is a good offense.” After last year’s deluge of unexpected, uncertain, and unprecedented situations, contingency plans addressing every possible situation are no longer a “nice-to-have” for your communications program — they’re a necessity.

Once you’ve set up your contingency plans, you’re prepped and primed for multiple twists and turns — ready for anything (or almost). More important, by allowing yourself to explore alternative scenarios, it keeps your team’s mind open to change. Being unafraid to scrap well laid plans makes you more nimble. So don’t get too attached to the ideas you have in place and keep the plans open-ended. Be prepared to change the messaging a month out, a week out, even right before you launch, if the situation calls for it.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

How will you know when and where to pivot? By listening. Social listening — observing the news, trends, people, and influencers that matter most to your brand — has always been an essential component of an agile communications program. The importance of social listening is evolving: It’s not enough to just look at the data or what people are talking about. As expert panelists discussed at a recent webinar from PRWeek and Critical Mention, brands and marketers have to pay close attention to shifts in tone and understand the moving parts of a conversation in order to deep dive into what your customers are really talking about.

While listening can help you stay reactive to the ever-evolving social landscape, being proactive with your listening can bring a communications program to the next level. Trendspotting is all about picking up on trends before they fully emerge, by observing ideas, concepts, and fads as they move into mainstream adoption. Social and cultural shifts in mood and mindset and how people talk about something will help point to a trend that is here to stay (and not a fad that will come and go).

Unsure where to start with listening and trendspotting? Follow Tier One’s weekly newsletter “The Spark” to get the latest digital marketing trends delivered right to you!

Embrace the Uncomfortable

As the industry and environment evolves around us, don’t be afraid to follow it to new places. Haven’t jumped on the TikTok train yet because you’re more comfortable staying in the Facebook-Twitter-LinkedIn lane? Stuck using a measurement tool that isn’t giving you the results you need because it’s easier than migrating to a new one? Afraid to share your company’s point-of-view because past PR conventions ordered brands to stay quiet?

Exploring new platforms, experimenting with new tech, and not shying away from unfamiliar territory will keep your communications program light on its feet and ready to take on whatever uncertainty life throws at it. As renowned leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith says, “What got you here won’t get you there.” So get uncomfortable.

Expect the Unexpected

If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. By polishing your contingency plans, listening in on the conversation, and enthusiastically jumping into new things despite the discomfort, you’ll remain resilient and be ready to tackle whatever the new roaring ‘20s have in store. 

Learn more about how Tier One can help your brand become agile.

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Sue Parente

About Sue Parente

What inspires me? Brave communicators who dare to put "right" before "safe."