The famous philosopher Heraclitus said that “nothing is constant, except change”. And who understands that better than individuals working in the communications industry?

But don’t feel discouraged — there’s good news when it comes to change. You can manage it! It follows the same approach needed when developing a communication strategy. Ready for the breakdown? media update’s Maryna Steyn lays it out.

Understand where the change is coming from

Change is everywhere — it’s safe to say that it will present itself at some point in management, finance, marketing recruitment and even workflow processes.

In a PR agency, the effects of new things are felt not only by employees but also by customers. That’s why every public relations practitioner needs to understand what drives change, as well as how to manage the consequences thereof.

Change management refers to having a detailed plan on how to tackle current transitions or transformations. Ideally, this plan will assist both those who need to implement it as well as everyone else involved in the agency’s journey.

Most people don’t like it when things get replaced by something new, therefore, it’s vital that senior management or individuals in leadership positions understand why the agency needs to change and what the ultimate vision or end goal will be. 

Have a change management plan

Once it’s clear that there is change on the horizon, the individuals who will be responsible for implementing it (usually management) need to draw up a clear strategy on how to tackle it effectively

Just like the steps you follow when you develop a communication strategy, your efforts are now aimed internally towards your employees, as well as externally towards your clients.

This plan needs to look at the impact that the change will have on the organisation and what resources will be needed in the process. Ask yourself questions like:
  • Who will be affected?
  • What will be better because of the changes?
  • What parts of the workflow will be affected and how?
  • What is the timeframe for the changes?
  • How will it be measured if the changes have been completed successfully?
Ideally, you should be able to answer all of the above questions. Once you have these answers, you can use them to better inform employees and stakeholders when informing them of the intended way forward. Your explanation of this will need to explain the following:
  • What is driving this change?
  • How important are the changes?
  • What is the goal?
  • How is it going to be achieved?
The detailed change management plan must also include an explanation of how resources will be managed during this period, so be sure to include this in too.

Use communication to implement change

Communication is key when aiming to manage change effortlessly in your PR agency. Making sure that everyone is aptly informed about what's happening, how it’s happening and what their part to play is means that transition periods can run smoothly.

You can use the following tips:
  • Use the right communicators: No one likes to feel like they are the last to know — and even more so when uncertainty rocks the boat. The right people to entrust with communicating the message are middle management and team leaders. They need to explain to their subordinates what is driving the change, what will happen and what the vision is.
  • Communicate the ‘why’: The main aim of communicating in a time of transition is to make sure everyone in the agency, as well as the clients affected, understand why changes are happening. This will make this period much smoother.
  • Communicate face-to-face: Wherever possible, talking in person should be done when it comes to managing change well. This personal touch helps team members feel that they are an important consideration in the process. It’s also considered to be the most effective form of communication.
  • Stay engaged: Continuously engaging with the rest of the team or the larger part of agencies. You can do this by frequently checking in with how the team is feeling about the changes. Patiently repeat previous conversations as this stressful time can easily cause confusion.
  • Create a space for questions: Every team member — or client for that matter — should feel that they can freely ask questions and that they will receive guidance in the situation.
media update’s top tip: Not everyone in a PR agency is affected in the same way, so remember to consider the unique ways in which copywriters, for instance, will be affected by change in comparison to art directors.

Have you had to manage sudden changes recently? Let us know in the comments below.

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Now that you know more change management, why not find out more about Crisis management 101: What to do when disaster strikes.
*Image courtesy of Canva