Now, more than ever, we have to figure out how to get stuff done and how to be smart about it. Both professionally and personally, our lives will inevitably change moving forward, the only certainty is that we must be ready to face it.

Thinking differently is part of the solution (mixed table link), but you need a plan. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and without a plan, those ideas take up space in your brain. The real magic happens at the intersection of thoughtful ideas and a well-executed campaign. Although it sounds political, a campaign is simply a series of actions taken to achieve a goal. And we run them every day of our lives.

Trying to navigate how to help your kids through online learning while still meeting work deadlines? That’s a campaign. Figuring out how to get groceries safely during a pandemic? That’s also a campaign. Restarting the economy; educating the public on the dangers of COVID- 19: campaigns. Humans have been running them our entire existence, hunting, and gathering to stay alive.

Today, as leaders, there’s no doubt you’re running a series of campaigns, whether it be getting your operation up and running again or helping communities deal with the pandemic’s impacts. The question is: are you aware that you’re running campaigns? There are a million problems that can arise when attempting to achieve big dreams, especially in the overhaul many businesses are undergoing due to the mayhem of COVID, so a structured goal-setting practice is more important than ever.

That’s why the campaign structure is a chassis. It always has the same frame, providing you, the campaign manager, a structured way to accomplish your goals, and it has six essential steps: define your ideal outcome, understand the context of your campaign, map the process, develop a dynamic strategy to execute your campaign, specify tactics to carry out your strategy, and execute your campaign.

Step One: Define your ideal outcome.

This sounds like the most straightforward part, yet it’s where a lot of people misstep. You have to be specific and intentional, and if you’re leading a team, ensure everyone is acutely aware of the exact goal you want to achieve. If you have four goals, run campaigns for each one. Don’t try to conflate them, for the different campaigns may require different strategies and teams.

Step two: Understand the context of your campaign.

Many campaigns fail due to a lack of context. Understanding the time and environment you’re in is imperative to running a great campaign. It’s not just what you can see and know today; it’s a broader picture of what could throw your campaign off-course. What are the disruptions, trends, circumstances, innovations, and regulations or inhibitors you might face? All of this intelligence is part of the context.

Step three: Map the process.

At this point, you already have the why. Mapping the process to achieve your goal involves figuring out the who, what, where, when, and how. Every organization is filled with processes, and if you want to achieve your goal, you will have to know the procedures you’ll be facing and be ready to navigate them. No matter what sort of campaign you’re running, you’re ultimately
trying to convince someone to do something. Who are the decision-influencers and decision-makers? How will you know when they’ve made vital decisions? Are there specific dates by which decisions have to be made?

Step four: Develop a dynamic strategy to execute your campaign.

This is where you get to play chess. Make a roadmap and fill it with speedbumps and traffic jams, taking all possibilities into account. Choose a direction but maintain flexibility. There’s nothing wrong with adapting as you go, as halfway down the road, you may realize you need to hire a marketing expert. Even with the best strategy, the success of executing falls on having the right team members, so carefully consider who you need.

Step five: Specify tactics to carry out your strategy.

Tactics are the arrows in our quiver. They’re the tools we deploy to reach our goals. Put another way; tactics are the muscles that fill out the skeletal frame of your strategy. This can entail anything from texting advertising to SEO optimization, interviews, and press releases. Be specific and set deadlines. The two main pitfalls people fall into are not being mindful of the schedule and failing to be thoughtful about the full array of tactics at your disposal.

Step six: Execute your campaign.

Many campaigns falter in this last step. You require the right teams and timelines; you require discipline, and the knowledge that communication is the vertical integrator. If every other aspect of the campaign is horizontal, communication is vertical, connecting them all. People trip up because they lack communication channels and constant vigilance about the flow of information.

People can get lucky. You can fumble in the dark and still succeed. It’s just less likely and in an already uncertain world, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to have a plan. You’ll be running a campaign anyways. Might as well make them effective, productive, and aligned with your highest goals.