In praise of the contingency plan

The well-known Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield often speaks about ‘planning for failure’ in space travel.   In his book The Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth, he explains at lengthhow seriously this is taken.  In relative terms, although astronauts have died in pursuit of space exploration – not one has died on a space walk and only three cosmonauts have died in orbit.  Considering space travel has been going on since the early 1960s: on up until recently a ride on what was essentially a WWII missile-come-rocket:  that’s an incredible record. 

The mustachioed astronaut and International Space Station Commander: who is famous for singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity in space: attributes this to the industry being fixated with contingency planning and constantly practicing worse case scenarios and simulations for years before an astronaut even puts on their space seat belt.  Ultimately astronauts have plans A,B, C, D – all the way to Z.

So what is a contingency plan and what does it have to do with marketing and PR? 

When compiling a marketing and public relations strategy a contingency plan should be considered.  The author or the team writing the plan needs to envision an element of the plan or all of it…… going wrong and plan for those scenarios. It’s easy to think that nothing goes wrong, but life isn’t always straight forward and we can’t forget a simple virus made the whole world work in contingency mode for two years. 

Sadly, RMS may not work for the space industry (yet) but let’s look at some common scenarios that can happen and easily be problem solved with some thinking ahead.

Speakers at a conference have been severely delayed due to poor weather.  Contingency plan: Can the speakers present live online.  Or ahead of the conference, arrange for a stand-in person to be available on the day. 

The leaflets are late from the printers.  Plan for the leaflets to be delivered earlier and not ‘just in time’.   If there was no room in the timescales, make sure the event/promotion has an alternative to a leaflet.  Can the local quick-print-shop do a few copies to tide you over?

We’ve all been there at the moment when something goes wrong, it’s an awful feeling.  RMS prides itself in building-in contingency plans into its marketing planning – here’s a few of our pointers:

  1. Plan for the worse case scenario.  Work out a solution, write it down and make sure everyone understands it and where they fit in.
  2. Plan for it and leave it alone.  You no longer need to worry about it.
  3. Save your plans.  A lot of the time these can be stored and re-used, as they all follow the same steps. 
  4. Don’t be shy in telling the team where you think something may go wrong and include the team in the solution planning.  We don’t want any ‘I told you so’ moments.
  5. Learn from other people’s experiences.  Ask they how they got out of the scenario.  What they would do differently.
  6. Include a contingency budget.  Budgets are always tight – but they should have a contingency incase things go wrong. 

Then relax, your marketing campaign will be a breeze.

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