Is a Strategy Session Really Necessary?

Last week, I wrote about the importance of getting the foundation of your communications strategy right. Many of you agreed with me that the organization itself is at the heart of it.

Now that you know why it’s important to get the foundation of your communications strategy right, let’s talk about the importance of having a strategy session.

I remember the first strategy session I ever attended. It was in 2015. I didn’t attend the session as a Consultant or Advisor. I was invited to attend after I had received an offer to join an organization as their Brand Communications Manager.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect as I left my house that beautiful morning. I had this consciousness that I was going to be part of something significant, even though I was unclear about the role I was meant to play.

The strategy session took place in a very nice conference room. Sitting all around me were very senior professionals – leaders in their different industries. That in itself was quite intimidating for me. My personal strategy was, therefore, to stay quiet, listen and learn.

Strategy sessions are all about deliberations – unpacking and unravelling an idea, concept or direction and this exactly what happened in the room that day. Suggestions were made, anaylzed; some discarded or set aside. The main thing we tried to figure out was, “How do we get to where we want to go?”

I didn’t end up staying mute because the head of the organization wanted to hear my thoughts. While I don’t remember exactly what I said during the strategy session, I remember some of the important lessons I took away. One of them is this – it is important to get the input and buy in of key stakeholders before you decide on the final strategy to adopt.

This lesson has served as a guide in the work I do as a Communications Advisor. More often than not, I insist on having a strategy session with my client. Not just with the contact person in the organization, but also with the CEO (where possible) and key internal stakeholders.

The reason is simple. I have personally experienced cases where a communications strategy was created only to hit a roadblock during execution because an important executive was not aware of the strategy. Being a key stakeholder, that person either puts a spanner in the works or sends you to the drawing board with new variables you hadn’t considered before.

To avoid this, having a strategy session, especially with your senior management is crucial. You need that alignment between what you want to do and what the leaders (and employees) expect you to do. Those two things are not always the same.

Going back to the organization I wrote about last week, the strategy session I did was with the CEO and two important team members. In my one on one conversation with the CEO, he had provided the bulk of the information I used to prepare for the session. It was, however, interesting to learn from the team members other critical information that the CEO had forgotten during our conversation. If I had gone ahead to create a communications strategy without the speaking with these two team members, it would have been a complete waste of time. The information they shared had to do with the structure of the organization and essential elements of the product they were offering. They were so critical that they completely changed the strategic direction I had thought of prior to the strategy session. I definitely dodged a bullet there.

So, before you finalize the details of your communications strategy, ensure you have a strategy session where you can engage senior leaders and other key team members within the organization.

Next week, I’ll share with you how you should prepare for a strategy session and how to guide the conversations.

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