Despite the crazy, decidedly non-Spring-like weather that until very recently occurred along most of the East Coast, we can finally feel it: summer IS coming. Summer–when people are away on vacation, July 4th shortens the week, there are fewer events and networking opportunities, some businesses have “slower” seasons (think: academia), and some are in high gear (think: construction).
So, what should you do before summer hits, to maximize the time before–and after–people begin heading off for a little R and R?
Right now: In the months, and, especially, weeks, before the summer, meeting and events season is in full swing. Use this time to strategically have face time with important contacts or audiences–for many civic and business organizations, this will be the last meaningful convening until after Labor Day.
Global differences: Our more relaxed friends in Europe sure know how to vacation. They take real time away… and (gasp!) even stay off email! Some of our PRGN colleagues, for instance, have out-of-office notifications announcing that they’re gone for a month, or more. If you work internationally, plan ahead–far ahead–around those long vacations to make sure your overseas needs can be met.
You can still have meetings: Sadly, Americans don’t tend to take long summer breaks. If you need or want to meet with someone, you probably can. Plan early to get it locked in, before vacation schedules or summer hours limit availability. Because some offices are more laid back in the summer, it may be easier to get quality time with the prospective customer, client, reporter or influencer who’s been elusive during the busy spring season. Don’t assume you can’t reach someone… maybe you can!
Or maybe you can’t: Your beat reporter, client contact or point person may be away when you need her. Find out in advance who’s covering for your important contacts before they go on vacation. Introduce yourself, especially if you don’t know them. Your business–and in our case, our clients’ news and events–can’t necessarily wait for your usual contacts to return.
Interns: Here they come… fresh off their Spring semester and ready to learn and work. Plan NOW for the projects they can tackle. You know you have them… those great ideas no one’s had the time to attack? The lower, but still interesting, priorities? They may be as tactical as a database clean-up or as strategic as research and recommendations about a new market. Interns want to contribute and can add significant value when there’s a good fit, provided they have clear direction and expectations. Set them up for success.
Summer events: Should you plan one? Have realistic expectations around attendance and costs. Some places are famously less expensive during the summer (Tucson in August?) while other places, like our headquarters hometown, Boston, are tight–and expensive–in terms of hotel capacity. Still other places could be affected by hurricane season; if you’ve got an event planned for a risky location, have a crisis plan-and insurance-in place (for more on that, read Keri McIntosh’s article on best practices for event risk management).
Quiet season: For industries like academia, which truly do have a slower summer pace, this is a good time to plan for the new academic year. Revisit crisis plans, update media contacts, and revise web content so you’re ready to hit the ground running in the fall. Don’t overlook the opportunity to pitch your beat reporters–they’re getting fewer pitches during the summer, so you have less competition. An interesting education angle can be just what a reporter needs when news is scarce. An “evergreen” pitch may stand a better chance now; if there’s one you really believe in that didn’t succeed before, update it and give it another shot.
Busy season: Industries like construction are in high gear. Build in extra time to get approvals, contracts, revisions and other materials processed. Think about the efficiencies you might build into your processes–they may actually make things more productive long-term. For media, find the best angles; don’t waste your time with “evergreen” or less compelling pitches when a beat reporter is covering an industry during its peak season.
Finally, unplug: If your company culture permits (and I hope it does!), try to unplug when you’re on vacation. Vacations are for relaxing and having fun, experiencing the world and spending time with loved ones. Taking time away helps us recharge and refresh, and better prepares us for our re-entry to the workplace. We all want to return energized and with new ideas. It’s true; the work will still be there when you get back, so enjoy your time off.