Communicators, Courage and Changing the Conversation
For as long as I can remember, professional communicators have been complaining about not having that coveted seat at the decision-making table.
I’ve heard their exasperation as they sit at their desks longing for inclusion …but failing to do anything differently than they’ve always done. Waiting for someone else to lead. Complaining that people and leaders simply don’t understand.
I think it’s time to wake up. There’s never been a more critical time for internal communication professionals to step up or step out. Stop longing for the seat. Stop longing for the table. Have the courage to walk through the door and deliver differently than you have done to date.
Something has happened (like I knew it would one day) that has turned on the need for strategic internal communication done right.
- Leaders understand that communication is integral in engaging employees, enabling change and empowering action.
- Technology companies, including Poppulo, have switched their focus from external news tools to internal-facing ones that help us communicate with employees, building opportunities for collaboration and community. These tools also help us measure our impact (or lack of).
- Traditional PR/External agencies and practitioners are offering internal communication service and consulting – only taking their broadcast solutions and simply turning them on internally as newsroom-only solutions or launch-and-leave short-term campaigns.
We have a choice. Let bad, meaningless internal communication happen on our watch and keep whining and complaining about a lack of respect or make the courageous decision to deliver meaningful, strategic communication solutions that lead to sustainable business results.
A few things need to happen for us to succeed.
- What we do must be seen as a profession – IABC, through the Global Communication Certification Council, launched its global standard for communication professionals and has begun the certification process. Communication professionals can earn a CMP (Communication Management Professional) or SCMP (Strategic Communication Management Professional. The hope is that this global certification (which is built to ISO standard) will establish Strategic Communication as a skill and expertise. What we need is critical mass like that achieved by HR professionals through their CHRL and CHRP certification standards; or Accountants with their CPA designations.Our challenge? Communication professionals want to wait and see and therein lies the challenge.Are we leaders or followers?Considering the fact that everyone thinks they can communicate professionally, and having taken the CMP exam, I know that not everyone can pass a certification for Communication Professionals.
- We need to commit to learning every day – When I worked inside corporations, we used to say that 70% of our learning happened on the job; 20% through in-house or free learning opportunities; and 10% through external paid-for conferences and seminars. Communication professionals must know their businesses and take the time to learn about all of the departments with whom they partner. They need to put their hand up to test new technology and work closely with I.T. to truly understand solutions that will be rolled out in their organizations. I know that training budgets are limited, but with so many free learning opportunities available through companies like Poppulo, IABC Circle of Fellows, Blogs, and articles, you can learn if you make the time for development.
- You must stop being an order taker – As long as you walk into a briefing with an internal partner and, listen to their order (of a memo, story, brochure, video) and simply deliver that order, you’re missing a big opportunity to be elevated to strategic advisor. We must change the conversation. I offer an Internal Communication Bootcamp that focuses on the five “I”s.
Implementation is the foundation of communication. Every communicator must be able to write, plan, and deliver on expectations. These are table stakes and should not define everything we do.
Interact is our important role in understanding our stakeholders and ensuring we proactively drive two-way conversations and feedback.
Integration is where the magic happens. When communication can connect the dots between strategy, messaging and action. When communication can highlight opportunities for groups to work together or when initiatives are at odds, resulting in confusion, a lack of credibility and a loss of trust.
Communication professioinals must let go. I often say that our greatest opportunity is not to communicate on behalf of our organizations, but to influence how our organization, leaders, and individuals communicate. The reality is everyone does and should communicate for the organization in everyday interactions in and out of the workplace. What is our role in ensuring that what they are saying is consistent and correct?
Every communication briefing should start with one question: “What does success look like.” The answer cannot be “to get the memo out” or “deliver the email.” We need to start talking about what business impact we want to achieve through communication support. If we cannot articulate an impact, we need to be prepared to say no to requests.
A communication briefing template is now available on the resources page of my website www.innerstrengthcommunication.com . Always conduct a briefing, ask questions, bring back a plan, measure results and provide a debrief of what worked and what we can do better next time. This discipline is required to be invited to collaborate on the next project.
There has never been a greater time for Internal Communication Experts. Leaders are contacting me regularly expressing frustration and hiring externally to get the strategic support they are looking for, but I don’t believe we can elevate the discipline by working against each other. That was always my dream with Inner Strength Communication Inc. – to help organizations and leaders recognize the potential power of strategic internal communication as a key enabler of success. We need to do that by building Inner Strength.
Change will take time. You will experience some pushback.
If you don’t know how to start the conversation, bring us in and we can help train you to succeed and facilitate the strategic conversations with leaders.