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 director of operations at Arment Dietrich. She is also a ninja. When not working with clients, collaborating with the Arment Dietrich team, or practicing her roundkicks, you can find her walking her dog, working out, or exploring the great outdoors.

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39 Comments on "The Snow Shoveler’s Guide to a Communications Strategy"


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Lubna Sadik
6 months 10 days ago

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

Danny Brown
6 months 10 days ago

Don’t encourage her!

Lubna Sadik
6 months 10 days ago

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

Danny Brown
6 months 10 days ago

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

Lubna Sadik
6 months 10 days ago

Excellent point!

Danny Brown
6 months 10 days ago

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… 🙂

6 months 10 days ago

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

Danny Brown
6 months 10 days ago

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!

6 months 10 days ago

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

Danny Brown
6 months 10 days ago

Clearly someone never got the memo…

6 months 9 days ago

The memo should’ve been sent through Postmatic.

She’d get it then.

Danny Brown
6 months 9 days ago

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

6 months 9 days ago


Gini Dietrich
6 months 9 days ago

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

Danny Brown
6 months 9 days ago

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…)

Corina Manea
6 months 9 days ago

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

6 months 9 days ago

You think that slacker will show up more often now?

Corina Manea
6 months 9 days ago

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.

Paula Kiger
6 months 9 days ago

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!

6 months 9 days ago

Some of us have never had to shovel snow…

6 months 8 days ago

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.