I’ve never found anybody who disagrees with this but recently I’ve realized there is a third piece to this puzzle.
It’s a piece that I rarely see talked about if at all. When it’s there it can make all the difference but when it’s not it can be like planting a bad seed that can harm and even potentially destroy your marketing and public relations efforts.
It’s called alignment and it’s not just a choice but a mindset.
Alignment Is More Than Commitment
I discovered the concept of alignment from an interview I saw with renowned guitarist Steve Vai on YouTube. He brought up the concept towards the end of the interview stating, “It doesn’t matter what you decide to do. It matters how you align yourself with your decision…It’s accepting what is.”
I started thinking about this idea and I realized aligning ourselves is more than just a commitment. Commitment is showing up. Alignment is embracing something.
When you embrace the decisions you make you are accepting them and everything that comes with them.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago I was trying to make a decision where I should live. Should I move to Seattle or stay in the Boise area? Ultimately I decided to stay in the Boise area but I never really aligned myself with the decision. I still found myself thinking, “Well, it doesn’t have to be Seattle. It could be Boston or Manchester or maybe Austin.”
I chose to continually second guess myself and it has made my life a little miserable at times.
Aligning meant that I embrace my decision and say, “I live in a great area. I want to experience whatever comes from being here.”
Alignment means you make your decision and accept all that comes with it. It also means letting the other options go. As Vai said, “Forget about the other decision. It doesn’t exist anymore. And, maybe it will come back around and then you align yourself with that.”
Alignment starts when you are making a decision and follows through to the end of the execution of that decision. This where marketing and public relations can go astray.
As soon as you make a decision that you need to engage in marketing and public relations activities you need to align yourself to them. What comes with that is strategic planning. Executing. Measuring. Testing. Measuring again. And understanding that some activities won’t see an immediate impact.
Many marketing communication activities take time. It’s not like turning on a light when you walk into a room. Content marketing can take 12-18 months before you see real results. Search engine optimization (SEO) can sometimes take years.
I started this blog in 2010 but I didn’t align myself with it. The result was I only wrote a few posts a year. Finally, in late 2016 I made a decision that I was going to commit to content marketing. It wasn’t just committing, I aligned myself to it and what it meant.
This site was a ghost town with few people showing up until early 2018. All of a sudden I started to see a little more traffic. Towards the middle of 2018, I started to see consistent traffic and it continues to grow.
It would have been easy to give up in June of 2017 and say, “This content marketing thing isn’t working. I’m done.” I mean, the metrics were awful. However, I’d made a decision to go with content marketing and aligned myself with it. I’m currently on track to exceed all the traffic that I got in 2019 by July of this year. Alignment has allowed that to happen.
Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and now CEO of Spark Toro, said that the Whiteboard Friday’s video series on Moz started with a whimper. They didn’t see results for years but they stuck with it. Now it’s one of the most popular pieces of content that Moz has. That’s because they aligned with their decision.
Is Everybody Aligned?
Around 2005 I was living in Utah. I came up to Idaho to visit my family in the Boise area for the weekend. On Monday I hit the road to go home. Just outside of Jerome, Idaho I got run off the road by a car merging onto the freeway that continued moved over into the far lane where I was. It all happened really fast but I found myself off-roading at 75 miles per hour. I’m still not sure how the car didn’t roll.
A few months later I was driving home from work and a rear tire blew. When I took it off could see the inside of it was shredded. The wheels on the car had come misaligned which culminated in the tire blowing.
There are times that we can be in alignment with our decisions and then something new enters and throws us off. All of a sudden we’re out of alignment. It could have started in the planning phase or it could have popped up during execution. It’s important that you make sure you are still in alignment.
When I was at Intel we had something that was called disagree and commit. We could argue about the right course of action all we wanted while we were in the decision phase but once a decision was made the discussion was over. It was expected that even if we disagreed that we committed to the decision that was made.
Intel had learned in the past that sometimes there was resistance after the decision was made which sometimes lead to sabotage. This wasn’t tolerated. There would be no sabotage hence disagree and commit.
I’ve had clients who never aligned with what I was trying to do for them. They literally were paying me to help them and then they were turning around and sabotaging my efforts. They never bought in which meant they never aligned.
All the red flags were there and I ignored them. It was a tough lesson to learn. I mistook them paying me as alignment. It wasn’t just about me aligning, it was about them aligning as well and I hadn’t done anything to help.
Can You Pass The Alignment Test?
There is an easy way to know if you are aligned. Are second-guessing yourself? If you are, you’re not aligned. And if you’re not aligned you’re not going to be excited about accepting your journey. When that’s the case, you will see mixed results.
It can be trickier is to know if your boss or your team has aligned. If they say something like, we’ll give it a try and see if it works, they aren’t aligned and chances are good they will cut and run at the first chance.
If you and your stakeholders can’t align, the best plan won’t help and execution will be hampered. You won’t be happy and neither will they. Time and money will be spent on mediocre results. That won’t help the situation at all.
Make your life easier and make sure everybody is aligned before you start. You’ll thank me later.
Questions or comments? Tell me below.
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