Can a business get ahead on luck? The stars have aligned for many businesses, and luck may have played a role. But smart business in not a game of chance.
Even “fairy tale” success stories – where some conclude that being in the right place at the right time was enough – generally have overlooked backstories.
Hard work, strategic planning and deliberate choices are discounted, while big ideas, explosive growth and impressive results are romanticized.
Ninety-five percent of strategic communications is a backstory. While we don’t necessarily live in the shadows, we do take pride in a carefully crafted and implemented strategy that is invisible to the public eye. If a business can successfully navigate a challenge, capitalize on an eleventh-hour opportunity or smoothly pivot in the midst of an initiative to realize a better outcome than the original plan had envisioned, that’s not luck.
Remember the “lights out” Super Bowl a number of years ago? While I had to look up the year, the teams and the winner of that game (2013; the Ravens over the 49ers, 34-31), I distinctly remember the Super Bowl ad that dominated headlines the next day – Oreo’s “you can still dunk in the dark” Twitter ad.
I recall conversations about how “lucky” Oreo was that the lights went out at the Super Bowl. Lucky Oreo! It doesn’t take much to debunk this lucky break.
Oreo was prepared. Company executives and the brand’s ad agency gathered in advance of the big game to organize the team and the approval process should a Super Bowl activity spark an opportunity to creatively position the brand.
Was it luck that members of the brand team and the agency team were watching the game from a room dubbed mission control? No. Was it happenstance that they had the ability to seize the opportunity and capitalize on it in a matter of minutes? No.
While this example of a brand creating its own luck isn’t about the strategic communications we do every day, it is an example that’s easy to grasp. You must stack the deck in your favor, prepare in advance and be nimble enough to capitalize on being in the right place at the right time.
Companies need to adopt that same mindset when it comes to addressing challenges. Assess your business, identify your areas of vulnerability and develop a game plan to ensure stakeholder relationships remain intact while reputational and financial damages are mitigated.
Being stranded on the side of the highway is NOT bad luck when you’ve been driving around with an empty gas tank on four bald tires. Nor is it bad luck for a business to be caught flat-footed when thrown a curve ball. It’s just risky.
While a little bit of luck can go a long way, I’d wager that most of those fairy tale businesses have backstories – hard work, strategic planning and deliberate choices – that enabled them to create their own luck … or at least capitalize on the stars aligning.