The wise pugilist philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” These words came just before his notorious title bout with fellow boxing legend Evander Holyfield, he of the reduced ear size following the fight. I doubt Tyson was referencing it, but the idea behind his now-famous line has been popular in military circles essentially forever: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

The wise philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”Click To Tweet

When it comes to executing brand strategy and related programming, nothing comes closer to the truth. Remember too, the hits (or the enemies) can come from any direction. Based on recent conversations with a few of our account supervisors (we rely on these PR pros and masters of program implementation to make sure our clients’ brand strategies tie back to business goals and deliver impact), here are a few of the most common pitfalls to watch out for. When the punches are flying, bombs are dropping and the proverbial you-know-what is about to hit the fan, this is what you need to help you, and your organization, navigate the tricky gap between strategic planning and strategic doing.

Avoid These Common Brand Strategy Pitfalls:

Misaligned Processes

According to one of my colleagues, the best-laid brand strategy can go to waste when internal processes don’t align with the demands of the program for which they signed on. For example, when the program calls for earned media content in the form of timely op-ed pieces, if approval processes can’t keep up with the fast-paced demands of today’s 24-hour newsroom, that’s a problem. Be proactive. Get pre-approval on template or “shell” op-ed drafts. When a relevant news event occurs, you’re then able to swiftly tailor the op-ed for outreach. A good rule of thumb is 24-hour turnaround on approvals. Longer than that and the page will have turned on the news cycle.

Decisions, Decisions

This one is something of a mystery. When a program is underway, it means someone made the decision to sign off on it. How (and why) is it then that “approval authority” seems to disappear? When no one is authorized to make decisions, approve content, etc., progress stalls. Similarly, when feedback is vague or alternatively, there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” and feedback is abundant and often contradictory, inertia in the form of “rework” results. To address this challenge, push your client or your internal team to empower a decision maker, someone with the authority to approve materials, yay or nay opportunities, and overall, move work along instead of waiting for others to give their okay.

How External Forces Can Crush Brand Strategy

What if these factors aren’t an issue? Your processes are well oiled and you have established trust (and momentum) with an internal decision maker. That doesn’t mean external factors can’t have a negative impact on your ability to effectively implement programming. Perhaps timing isn’t ideal; the market isn’t reacting, for example. If that’s the case, refocus the brand strategy for the short term and pivot to plan B. But never taking your eyes off long-term goals. At some point, the timing will be ideal for plan A.

To recap, successful implementation of just about any PR program and overarching brand strategy requires:

  • Effective work processes to be in place
  • Someone empowered to make decisions
  • Awareness of external factors

Unfortunately, things can (and sometimes will) go awry, but the right team, such as an outside agency partner, will have the experience, professionalism and grit to persevere. Oh, and about that fight with Evander Holyfield? A heavy favorite, Tyson lost. I guess ear biting is just one external factor even boxing wasn’t prepared for.
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With more than a decade at Stern, Ned has had the opportunity to counsel – and learn from – some of the brightest minds in business. A lifelong student, he is always searching for new ways to hone his craft by applying insights and ideas from outside sources. He says inspiration can come from anywhere in the world – from his young children to emerging start-ups to more established brands – which he constantly draws on to infuse creativity into client programming. As vice president, his pragmatic leadership style combines with strategic thinking to effectively connect clients with top-tier media, conferences and industry influencers. If he hadn’t answered the call to become a communications pro, you might have found him as a carpenter crafting wood furnishings and cabinetry.