Tick, tick, tick.

Working in a challenging, fast-paced job is the norm for most of us these days and time is our most precious resource. This is certainly true for those of us working in the communications agency environment. We split our time, guard our time, track our time. We work extremely hard to maximize our time.

For communicators and journalists alike, this struggle with time is exacerbated by the very real deadlines we live with every day. My colleague Jonathan Wilson reflects on this in his accompanying article, The 7 Letter Word PR Professionals Don’t Want to Talk About. He asks, are we allowing our roots in the deadline-driven world of journalism to dictate the pace of our day-to-day activities? And what are we sacrificing by continuing to do so in the changing world of integrated communications?

I was recently listening to an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain from NPR, “Tunnel Vision.” According to the Princeton psychology professor interviewed, when a resource like money, food or time is scarce, we focus almost exclusively on what we lack – falling into the “trap of scarcity.” By doing so, we lose our ability to think clearly, to show good judgement and to think ahead. This somewhat startling concept got me thinking about how I spend my time at work and at home and what is lost in the midst of all this juggling.

Let’s put home (a worthy topic for another post!) aside for a moment to focus on work. The urgent nature of client service, combined with the fast pace of communications, leads us to reward and value speed above all else. Speed equates to time and, we know for many, this is what we find most scarce. What does it mean to be responsive? Does it mean responding quickly or does it mean responding thoughtfully? I tell those I work with most closely that it means both. Yet sometimes we can’t have both. To truly be thoughtful, we need to stop and think. In an integrated agency like Spectrum, to arrive at the most impactful outcome we often need to embark on a process that involves pressure-testing strategy, brainstorms with subject-matter experts, time to process and coalesce thinking, multiple rounds of creative, etc. We can meet needs or fill gaps quickly, but are we thinking about what’s best today or what is best long-term?

Here’s a recent example. A client called late in the evening asking us to draft a tweet they’d forgotten to prepare in advance. It needs to go out tonight. It’s just a tweet, right? Less than 280 characters. We can do that quickly.

But… is there such a thing as just a tweet? Twitter may be the only interaction some audiences have with a brand. If we fail to use the right voice, we’ve created brand dissonance. If we don’t include the right hashtag, we’ve missed an opportunity to reach the right audience. And if we don’t have the right context, the tweet may not support the larger brand story.

As communicators, we need to consciously balance our desire to deliver quickly with the true need. We must discern between what is urgent and what could be manufactured urgency or urgency out of habit, because time is always scarce. We who come from a heritage of traditional public relations, I think, are uniquely poised to find the sweet spot between over-burdensome process and over-simplifying that which would benefit from more strategy, expertise and time. It’s at this intersection that we can truly lead the way, providing our teams and our clients a roadmap with which to navigate the ever-evolving communications landscape.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Michelle Strier, EVP and head of Spectrum's biotech practice.

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