Here is the only New Year’s resolution that PR and comms pros have to make in 2018

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You’re back from the holiday break, you’re refreshed and recharged, and ready to tackle the plan for 2018.

This year will be different: you’ve made resolutions to use new channels, and to experiment to find new and more effective ways of telling your story. You’re going to measure everything, you promise yourself, and you’ll be bolder than ever before. Sounds amazing!

Trying new things and always striving to get even better are wonderful resolutions – but they’re also fairly self-centered. If you’re in communications or PR, you work in a very audience- and client-focused field. With that in mind, there’s really only one New Year’s resolution you absolutely have to make to be successful in 2018:

“I will respect and value the time and attentioN I get from my audiences.”

This one sentence is the very definition of customer-centric thinking when it comes to PR and corporate communications. If you resolve to let it serve as your North Star, you will accomplish your goals, blow away your clients’ expectations and set yourself and your team up for long-term success.

Here are practical principles by which you live this mantra. There’s nothing vague or high-minded here – just a relentless focus on the end users of whatever it is that you produce. I’ve broken it down by internal and external communications, as well as the agency world.

Internal communications

I will listen before I speak. (This one applies to all groups!)

I will invest time and effort to understand the strategy and priorities of the business/leader I support.

I will share information (and never hoard it) with my colleagues on other teams.

I will focus on simplicity… and then I will take what I create, and make it even simpler.

I will seek a seat at the table before plans and strategies are fully baked. Recognizing that this is a privilege and not a right, I will work to earn it.

I support a business/leader, but I work for the employees. If a proposed communications approach doesn’t resonate with them, I will have the courage to stand up and change it.

I will never insult our employees’ intelligence with glib messaging which skirts around the real issue. Employees are people first and foremost, and deserve to be treated with respect. That means honesty and transparency, wherever possible.

External communications

My job is not to put out press releases whenever the company decides I should. My job is to protect and enhance the company’s reputation through effective storytelling to media and other external audiences.

When we make worthless announcements, we hurt our brand with journalists and, ultimately, with the public at large. I will work hard this year to ensure that our organization understands this fact.

I will push to achieve something I know is valuable for my organization, but is outside its comfort zone. Wins like this are what people will remember most and where true value lays.

I will spend significantly more time this year with journalists. Building these relationships pays long-term dividends.

I will lead in a crisis. My role is strategic and vitally important, and I will ensure I’m the calmest person in the room as I navigate any challenge faced by our organization. If I’m not confident, I will train. I will also refresh our crisis plans, as soon as possible.

I will look inside our company, as much as out. My internal communications colleagues are often working on amazing campaigns that could have just as much impact externally as they do internally.

I will challenge my agency partners to deliver more. More creativity, more ideas, and more service.

I will also ask myself if I’m using my agency the right away, or being realistic in my asks of them – If my goal is not attainable, I will adjust accordingly.

Agencies

I will deliver more. More creativity, more ideas and more service. It’s what my clients deserve.

I will be honest. That means I will push back on bad or unrealistic client ideas, even if it means putting a working relationship at risk. Clients pay for honesty, not for an automatic “yes.”

I will be always-on for my clients. That means if I come across a great idea on the weekend, my clients will have an email waiting for them by Monday morning.

I will do more to understand my clients’ business and priorities, so that I can spot trends and storylines before they emerge.

I will work to understand the priorities of journalists even better. I will be helpful, pitch only stories in which they’re interested, and be pithy, brief and compelling whenever I have something to share.

I will bring external insights and best practices to my clients, without them having to ask. I will become an indispensable expert in my field, a font of knowledge for my clients to tap into whenever they have a question.

Integrated communications are going to be the theme this year. Budgets are shrinking and expectations are growing. That means whatever we produce for clients will have to be relevant internally and externally, both with traditional and social media.

I will actively seek out, listen to and act upon feedback from clients. (This one applies to all groups too!)

I will focus on what my team does best, and if client needs fall outside that, I will bring in a partner. Half-way solutions mean half-way results.

I will never leave a client wondering when or if I will respond. Even if I don’t have an immediate answer, clients need to know immediately that they’re being heard.

Bringing it all together

It’s important to note none of these principles get in the way of you experimenting with the latest technologies, channels and approaches, or interfere with your desire to be bolder and strive for more.

Instead, they empower and guide you, and will completely change how you’re perceived by your clients in terms, and how much value you deliver.

If that’s not a great goal for 2018, I don’t know what is!