Many corporate communication environments are formal and averse to risk. Communicators who want to try new, outside-the-box ideas often run into “that’s not the way it’s done” or “we’ve never done that before” responses from the powers that be.
If history teaches us anything, it’s that those who innovate are rarely rule followers. But if you’re not the one calling the shots in a structured organization, going rogue isn’t a wise strategy. There are always protocols, and the first step should be to approach management and sell them on your idea.
That can be tough to navigate, so I compiled a few tips to help you more easily see your innovation come to fruition. If you’ve got a new idea for a blog, or maybe a video series, keep these points in mind before you make the pitch.
Don’t Email or Call; Discuss Face to Face
I think the most important step in selling your idea is showing the proper respect, not only to your manager, but to your concept. If you propose something via email or over the phone, then what you’re subconsciously communicating to your boss is that you don’t believe enough in it to discuss it face to face. Setting up an appointment gives an air of importance to your plan and denotes that you’re serious enough to take time out of your day and his/hers.
If you’re shy, then either get over it and psych yourself up or forget the whole thing. No one will have faith in your idea if you don’t seem like you do.
Provide a Detailed Proposal or Outline
Know your idea backward and forward, and be ready to answer questions or scenarios. As you explain, have a proposal or presentation that will help your manager visualize your concept. Explaining doesn’t always do the trick; some people need to see or experience exactly what you’re describing. Think of Shark Tank. You never see someone come on that show and sell their product just by talking; they always have the product itself or a detailed illustration of what the product will look like after investment.
Even if you’re idea is a simple one – like a new blog, for instance – come with a tangible example of what it will look like. Don’t let your manager picture in their mind; show it to them.
State a Problem and How Your Idea Addresses It
When you’re selling anything, what you’re really doing is showing how you’re solving a problem. If you’re selling a sleep aid, the way you sell it is to hit a pain point for insomniacs: You can’t sleep at night; my product will solve that problem. It’s the same for communicators.
When proposing a new idea, the problem you’re solving is lack of engagement – internally or externally. If employees or customers are not engaged enough, then you need to show how your idea will solve that issue. If other organizations have tried similar ideas and found success, come prepared with that data. It helps your case if you can prove its efficacy from the start.
Always Be Positive
If there are any holes in your idea, let your boss point them out. Be prepared to address them, but don’t volunteer any shortcomings. Always answer with, “That’s a good point. Here’s why I think we can mitigate any negative outcomes…” or something to that effect. Don’t short-change yourself. Be confident, even when a negative point is made.
Have Options Ready and Be Ready to Compromise
Even after you’ve proposed your kick-butt idea, you might still not sell management on it completely. There might be reservations about pushing the envelope too much. So be prepared with options – maybe a phased approach or a watered-down version of your concept. Don’t concede or give up, but if it’s clear that you’re not going to sell them on the fully loaded version of your idea, be ready to negotiate to a less costly or risky model.
Be Ready to Get Started
New ideas are great, but if you’re not ready to pull the trigger right away, then you might frustrate those in power. After all, if you get them to buy in enthusiastically, but then have no plan to execute in the near future, you run the risk of taking the air out of the proverbial balloon. Assume that you’ll get the green light before your proposal and show how you’re ready to get started right away. It’ll give your manager even more confidence that you truly believe in your idea and that approval was the right way to go.
These are just a few things I’ve learned about pitching an idea to management. How about you? Have you found success in proposing a new concept or approach to your communications? Let us know your secrets in the Comment section below!
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