A clear mission is the heartbeat of strategy and answers the question of why we’re here, explained H2O Strategies Founder Monique Waters to the 60+ attendees of "Strategic Planning in a Dynamic World" Oct. 18 webinar sponsored by O’Dwyer's and Researchscape.

Waters likened this to blinders that help keep a horse steady and heading in the right direction. “Things are going to happen, and you’re going to need to pivot and be agile, but if you remain committed to your mission, you’ll remain on the right path,” she said.

Monique Waters
Monique Waters
Tina Charpentier
Tina Charpentier
Tony Cheevers
Tony Cheevers

Patagonia is a perfect example of a company whose commitment to the environmental impact of their products has permeated their culture from top to bottom, according to Waters. “Mission breathes purpose into a strategy,” Waters said.

Waters warned though that while taking a stake in societal issues is important, and there is great upside both internally and externally, consumers will quickly pick up on it if you’re just pandering. “All social issues don’t work for all organizations,” Waters said.

Waters was joined in the online discussion by Padilla EVP Tina Charpentier and moderator Tony Cheevers, customer success officer for survey-research consultancy and SaaS firm Researchscape.

Charpentier echoed Waters’ sentiment on tackling social issues. “Companies must be brave and honest on how far along they are on an issue,” she said. People can do a simple Google search and easily see holes in a company’s claims, Charpentier noted.

In order to combat the inevitable internal swirl, Charpentier recommends creating a social issues scorecard. Having this in place lays out specific criteria on the impact on company mission of various issues and makes it easy to decide when to be a leader, just supportive or stay out, she explained.

Inflation anxiety

Charpentier explained inflation fears are prompting age-old questions from clients about producing results and demonstrating value. These concerns must be volleyed back though with a set of clear criteria that shows where communications can contribute to the bottom line, Charpentier stressed.

Client leadership used to ask for a yearly marketing plan but now Charpentier is seeing more frequent discussions and what she described as “agile scrums.”

Charpentier admitted that she’s counseling clients to plan in the most strategic way, but they must have a “keep the lights on” backup plan going forward into next year.

Strategic role upstream

The biggest challenge facing communications executives is commanding a strategic role upstream and not being left as an afterthought downstream, Waters pointed out.

“Strategy should be a north star, but teams must get their leaders to buy in,” Waters said. “True, repetitive, scalable success results when you understand the leader’s vision and are on the same page with collective goals.”

Addressing client leadership, Charpentier pointed out an interesting conflict between old school leadership versus something more authentic developing today. “Leaders need to be more comfortable in an environment where they don’t have everything figured out and are trying to work on it,” Charpentier said.

A full recording of "Strategic Planning in a Dynamic World" webinar is available.

Jean Serra
Jean Serra

Next up in the webinar series is “Leading Through Challenging Times" Nov. 15th @ 3 p.m. EDT with Jean Serra, Founder of V2 Communications.

Future topics under consideration are:

  • Content marketing and its intersection with PR
  • Mental health and wellness at work
  • Crisis communications

Feel free to contact John O'Dwyer at [email protected] if you'd like to suggest a topic, be a panelist or are interested in sponsoring a webinar.

Past webinars:

Overcoming Toxic Culture: Everyday Practices That Make a Difference

Overcoming Toxic Culture: Everyday Practices That Make a Difference
Dr. Kerry O’Grady, Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Practice, Georgetown University
Sep. 20, 2022

Business Development for PR Agencies

Business Development for PR Agencies
Karen Swim, President, Words for Hire
Vanessa Horwell, Chief Strategy Officer, ThinkInk
John Vernon, Sr. Business Development Mgr., PAN Communications
Apr. 21, 2022