The Power of “The Plan” – Thriving in a Year Like 2020

As we turned the corner into 2020, most of us had fresh visions for the new year with plans and goals to pursue.

Aaaaahhhhh… but 2020 had other ideas! How many memes have we seen (or created) to define and describe this “unprecedented” year? Yes, that’s on the list of words we never want to use again.

Our job is to adapt, pivot, and find ways to thrive, not just survive! Haven’t we witnessed the efforts of local restaurants in our communities to adapt to the world of “curbside or takeout,” and build an entirely new fan base with their efforts? Who would have dreamed that drive-in movies might make such a dramatic comeback? And don’t you wish you had bought stock in Zoom in 2019?

I watched my local Chamber of Commerce respond so nimbly and boldly that I wondered if they had seen all this coming. So I reached out to them to learn about their “pivots” and found a truly simple answer – one we all know. It’s about making “The Plan.”

The Garland Chamber of Commerce’s vision is to inform, coordinate, and respond, and they deliberately and strategically plan to fulfill that vision. Their leadership makes a point of regularly updating their strategic plan. They review and analyze their priorities and activities to ensure they support their primary mission and purpose. Their organizational culture supports a collaborative teamwork environment that embraces ongoing improvement. They also pride themselves on being sensitive to the economic climate and carefully monitoring what’s “on the horizon.”

That alertness enabled the Chamber leadership to see uncertainty headed our way as news of a novel, contagious virus started to spread. They immediately began thinking through their “what if” scenarios, researching alternative methods for program implementation. They developed procedures for quick notification of program changes, created timelines for ongoing evaluation of future events, and engaged their membership in setting priorities. Since March, the Chamber has only canceled two programs. Participation has continued to be robust.

Once the shutdowns began back in March, the Chamber began rolling out virtual options for the bulk of their regular programming and surveying their members to check their pulse and learn about their specific needs as the weeks and months progressed. Not everything worked perfectly, yet they continued to pivot. In addition to their small business development and networking programs, they developed a “Wellness Wednesday” program. Their members had expressed that many needed time and resources to support their emotional and mental needs, in addition to the purely business needs. From the point of view of the Chamber’s members, that organization is thriving. The members are finding great value in the Chamber’s program offerings and resources.

I asked Chamber President Karina Olivares what made them so nimble. “We listened to our members and we adapted our programming to align with what we heard,” she said. “It’s all about staying true to our mission and meeting the Garland business community’s needs.”

If all of this sounds familiar, public communicators engage many of these same concepts when developing communications plans and teams to handle all kinds of situations. These are principles our profession embraces, even if we sometimes lose focus as we get caught up in day-to-day operations.

If you want to learn more about developing a new plan or fine-tuning existing plans, check out the Certification Program section of the TAMIO website. Reach out to your peers who have participated in the program, directly or through the TAMIO Facebook group. We have a wealth of experienced professionals in our membership who are glad to share their experience, their insights and even their actual plan documents. When it comes time for us to come together at conference, make a point of networking with your peers to share ideas. The most experienced communicators always benefit from hearing a new perspective. No one is too experienced to learn something new. No one is too green to succeed.

Dorothy White, CPC
TAMIO Vice President
Public and Media Relations Director
City of Garland