Laura Petrolino

The Snow Shoveler’s Guide to a Communications Strategy

By: Laura Petrolino | January 18, 2016 | 

The Snow Shoveler's Guide to Communications StrategyBy Laura Petrolino

It’s that time of year again, when shoveling becomes one of my most practiced hobbies. It’s a very ritualistic part of my day in the winter (and I actually sort of love it).

I shovel in the morning, I shovel in the evening, I make plans to shovel with friends on the weekends. I even occasionally catch myself feeling jealous of some of my neighbor’s shovels because they are so cool or effective looking. 

Shovel Your Way to a Successful Communications Strategy

Yesterday, while spending a fair amount of the day shoveling from our latest storm (a really nice one—great snow), I started thinking about (…..seriously folks, how long have you known me? You knew this was going to become an analogy post, right?) how successful shoveling really mimics many aspects of executing a successful communications strategy.

So here we go….the snow shoveler’s guide to communication strategy.

Understand the Foundation

Before I shovel a piece of my walk or driveway I evaluate what the foundation—underneath the layers of snow—is like.

For example, parts of my driveway are concrete, parts (the parts that I curse every winter) are gravel, and parts (@#&?!) have random roots growing out.

When you create a communications strategy you must do the same. You must understand:

(*these are just broad buckets, obviously the details are very important here)

And you must have a crystal clear understanding of objectives and goals. While goals are the “end point,” they are part of the foundation.

I think of this as the alpha and the omega.

Also, by understanding what the foundation looks like, I can have a more clear vision of what the goal looks like. I know success on the concrete section of my walk is clear pavement. Whereas success on the gravel sections is totally different—a snow covered smoothness.

This is also a very important distinction you must be able to make in your communications strategy.

Pay Attention to Technique

I talked in detail about technique in my post last week, and here it is again. Long story, short—technique is crucial. Without it you’ll hurt yourself, be ineffective, and short change your goals.

The Right Equipment Can Help

Every day, during the winter, I say a pray of gratitude to the deities of my daily survival:

  • Outdoor Research mittens (p.s. Outdoor Research not only has great winter gear, but they do a rockstar job with their content marketing strategy)
  • Northface Jacket
  • Sorel boots
  • And an endless variety of demigods in the form of hats, scarfs, and really warm knee and thigh high socks.

These things help me be effective, give my strategy longevity (just say no to hypothermia), and produce a better product/end goal.

Here is the important part though: The tools don’t accomplish my goals, they support them. They allow me be a better (and happier) shoveler—but I’m the center-point. Even for those people who have a snowblower—someone’s behind the wheel.

Likewise in a communications strategy, tools can help support success, but the communications team is what drives it.

Tools will never successfully drive a communications strategy.

Make Strategic Partnerships

Shoveling brings people together. I visit with neighbors while I’m out there, people stop by to say hi and catch up, the community will support those who maybe can’t handle the shoveling on their own (I’ve been invited to shovel parties to help shovel for someone who is sick or struggling through something that prevents them from handling the task on their own.

It’s a community.

Likewise, my neighbor will snow blow part of my walk, and I’ll make sure I keep things clear of his oil tank so it’s easy for the delivery guy to get in to refill.

Partnerships support success in shoveling and communications strategy

Set Milestones

Especially during a large storm, shoveling is an endurance sport. Sometimes you’ll shovel one section clean and by the time you get a fourth of the way through the next one, your first section already looks like you haven’t touched it. It’s easy to get discouraged, so you must set success milestones and track to see how you are doing against them.

In communications strategy this translates into several important concepts.

  1. Set expectations: Your client isn’t going to be on the cover of the Wall Street Journal the day after they hire you—and no, not the week after either. Set exception on timeline and deliverables from day one.
  2. Track, measure, evaluate. You know the drill. Understand which PR metrics you should use to evaluate success and consistently track and evaluate them.

And be sure as you do this, you understand that this measurement will probably change the way you see the “foundation” discussed above— and how you go about clearing the path to success.

Prepare for the Next Storm

Here in Maine, unless it’s June, you know that you are going to have another storm around the corner (and there is actually still a small possibility in June). Another storm that brings more snow which you are going to have to find a place for.

So you need to think long-term.

In the initial storms of the year I could go the easy route and shovel things to the most convenient place possible, but that would royally screw me over in the long-term. Not only would it make my life miserable, it would prevent me from successfully reaching my goal (at least without desperate measures).

In shoveling, communications strategy, and life….always evaluate short-term gain vs. long-term success.

And there you have it friends. Shovel your way to communications strategy success (and don’t get stuck in your driveway).

Photo credit: Me! After A LOT of shoveling time during our blizzard last year.

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • Anytime a post starts with a Laura analogy, you know it’s going to be a good one.

    • Don’t encourage her!

      • Sigh, apparently, I do. Gini says that to me EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’ll try.

        • In fairness, Laura doesn’t need all that much encouragement…

          • Excellent point!

          • I’m an only child. I have years of practice encouraging myself!

            But regardless, I always appreciate the extra cheer Lubna!

  • Sweet mother of all things blizzardy, I don’t know what to say here.
    Seriously. You enjoy shoveling snow? And you organize snow shoveling parties at the weekend? I’m revoking your cool badge!

    Although I did enjoy the analogy. One thing you forgot – the reward is worth the output. Especially if it’s a nice Malbec… 🙂

    • LOL! I was explaining it to Lubna earlier today. I’m not sure why, it’s totally zen for me. It’s super quiet out there normally and all I have to focus on is the one task. My brain is normally going five million directions at once, so it’s a nice change to just have a couple of hours of one single focus, it reminds me of when I used to be a distance runner.

      • Ah… see, I get that. For me, it’s vacuuming – I can lose myself for hours in that, even going over somewhere that’s already been cleaned. A bit more relaxing than shoveling, mind you (although the Malbec is still the end product!).

        • Malbec is still the end product!!

        • I’m pretty sure, you’ll enjoy Malbec far better after a “relaxing” session of snow shoveling. 🙂

          • Oh hells no – that’s usually when I crack out the single malt. Especially if it’s a 15 year old Oban, or 18 year old Laphroaig. 🙂

          • Ah! Single malt would be good after shovelling. Yes. Although laphroaig is a bit too peaty for my taste. More like a Macallan or Lagavulin.

          • Two very good choices there – I concur. To be honest, pretty much anything from Speyside is a good choice, but the peaty ones from Islay are good for this time of year especially. 🙂

  • I’m confused. How did I get here? I must’ve gotten lost on the way to Danny’s post…

    • That’s understandable, Kate. Laura was up to all sorts of shenanigans in order to pop my bubble. Using her well-tested analogy type post was a low blow!

      • Especially when you were just trying to be helpful. It was for the good of Spin Sucks!

        • Clearly someone never got the memo…

          • Obviously Danny roofied you Kate…that is the only thing which could explain your outrageous comments here. I’m so sorry, it will hopefully wear off soon.

          • The memo should’ve been sent through Postmatic.

            She’d get it then.

          • Oooh, burn. I like you – you can stay. 🙂

          • +1!

  • Showing Mr. D how to comment from email. Oh, hi Laura!

    • Is that a Chicago burn?

      Given you like snow so much, is there an AD snow shoveling team? You could have a pretty good rivalry (although I think Corina might be at a disadvantage…)

      • If Gini and I could compete in snow shoveling, we would definitely do it. But she doesn’t get the same amount of raw material as we do. It’s unfair playing ground.

      • Not really, Danny. I am very good at watching and encouraging from afar 🙂

    • You think that slacker will show up more often now?

  • Laura, you just reminded me of good ol’ days in Romania when we were shoveling snow from our parking spot, because our kind neighbors cleaned up their spots on ours (while we were at work). What’s more fun than to come home from work and to discover your parking spot disappeared under a mountain of snow. 🙂
    Back to communication strategy, each step has its place and we need to give each proper attention. You can’t skip one and hope all will turn out good in the end.

    • Haha! That’s the nice thing about Maine, people are ridiculously polite, so they’d never shovel snow your way!

  • Great post, Laura! I read it much earlier today but have not had a chance to comment until now. Oh, and as always …. #OnlyChildrenUnite! #UniteInOurFabulosity!

  • Some of us have never had to shovel snow…

    • You are missing out! Seriously! Take a family trip to Maine sometime soon, I’ll take you all on a fun shoveling adventure!

      • Weirdest vacation ever. “What did you do over spring break, Timmy?”
        “We went to Maine and shoveled other people’s snow.”

  • Thanks for the inspiration LP! Waiting for DC’s first 2016 nor’easter so I can do some shoveling (and snow walking). Until then, I’m working on clearing out the “debris” of the system I inherited, working around what can’t be fixed (in the short-term) and building the plan for the future. The path is starting to peek out at me now. p.s. Appreciate the mini-shopping list. I like Ariat and stuff from Sportsman Guide too. Have yet to find a decent pair of gloves. Sigh.

    • Clearing out the old debris, is by far the hardest part. Especially because you can’t really tell what the foundation is like, until you strip that layer away.

      I lived in DC when there was a huge storm (about a decade ago) and it was not fun because the city has no idea what to do with it! I remember being trapped in my apartment complex for what seemed like weeks because everything shut down!!

      Good luck! Shovel hard and don’t forget to make a snowman first to assist (Or at least cheer you on)