Disrupt or Die: Reinventing Our Role for a Hyper-Connected World – Part 2

As we move away from doing less to being more of an advisor, what’s our role exactly? Here are five critical service areas and 12 basic communication lessons that meet customers’ wants and needs.

Editor’s note: Communicators have to transform again, before our role becomes obsolete. This is second in the series on the changing role of the corporate communicator. This was the first “big picture” topic discussed during the Communitelligence Communication Leaders Circle pilot.

As we move away from doing less to being more of an advisor, what’s our role exactly? Here are five service areas that meet customers’ wants and needs.

Note that “creator of content” is missing. With everyone able to shoot a video, record a podcast and write a post (maybe not well, but passable), we’ve got to provide value in different ways.

This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. About a generation ago we switched from being the in-house journalist to serving as a business communicator. We now have to transform again, before our role becomes obsolete, especially since computers are making strides in constructing stories from scratch using algorithms and natural language generators.

5 Critical Communicator Roles

Service Actions
Educating Teach lessons, just-in-time to the extent possible. Topics that resonate with non-communicators often include:

• writing and editing basics
• identifying stakeholders
• creating compelling messages
• developing communication plans (Part 3 will cover a simple communication planning tool)
• telling effective stories
• matching messages with channels
• helping team/functional leaders be better communicators
• communicating change, especially getting people to take actions and change behavior
• understanding the power of non-verbal communication, such as behavior, attitudes, symbols, quality and body language
• writing for the web
• using email more effectively
• using social media and collaboration tools more effectively
• figuring out how to develop a cadence for ongoing communication, including updating team/project websites.

Other topics that non-communicators often need include understanding the differences between communicating within your team and with others in the organization; avoiding plagiarism; using photos and graphics effectively; creating videos; and personalizing corporate messages for the team.

Facilitating Offer facilitation help and support for kick-off and other important team meetings as well as special meetings and events.

With an outside, objective person facilitating, a group usually can get to the
heart of the matter faster, reach decisions, and start to build plans.

And even when they have access to meeting planners and facilitators, many non-communicators still need help figuring out how to use communication to reinforce the key messages of the meetings and motivate people to apply what they’ve gleaned from the meetings.

Curating Serve as a curator. That is, share items of interest – such as corporate messages, reports, industry outlooks – that add value either as is or with color commentary or a short summary, preferably with graphics.

When you’re curating you’re connecting the dots, making the connections to your business strategy, key themes, and values. This also helps people recognize patterns.

Plus, you’re providing context, explaining why something is important and worth paying attention to, which can be incredibly valuable when teams and business units are concentrating on their day-to-day immediate work.

Measuring Assess the effectiveness of their communication, including gathering and analyzing qualitative and quantitative feedback.

Also consider evaluating meetings and other actions that include a communication component.

The teams/functions can benefit from an objective source who can direct them about the best ways to measure, how to analyze the data that’s gathered, and how to adjust the communication based on the measurement results.

Guiding Act as an advisor or coach. Be available to provide as-needed counsel on issues as they arise.

Or, if you become aware of concerns from others in or outside the organization, be prepared to step in quickly and help. Don’t wait to be asked. In this situation, you are playing the important role of mitigating risks – generally reputational yet sometimes financial, operational, legal, and strategic – to the organization.

And to make sure you’re preventing fires more than fighting fires, be sure to establish quality standards that you convey and monitor.

12 Basic Communication Lessons

When tutoring others in communication, include these 12 points in your lessons. Offer them in chunks and then get people to practice the concepts so they’ll embed them in their brains. In my experience, these principles, which are generally obvious to communicators, often tend to trip up others.

1. Communication will happen even if you don’t communicate actively yourself. Everything you say and do communicates every moment of the day – and night. So you need to tell your story before others create one for you.

2. Communication is everyone’s responsibility. It isn’t owned by a function or a person.

3. Determine your intent before you speak or write, or present. Recognize that you often need to do something other than inform. For example, while communication is informing, it’s also inquiring, instructing, involving, influencing, inspiring, interpreting, interacting, and initiating.

4. Put yourself in other peoples’ shoes before you communicate. Seeing things from their point of view will help you determine what they want to know about and how they want to get the messages.

5. Like a good conversation, effective communication is two-way. You can’t talk at people if you are trying to build understanding, gain acceptance, and encourage them to change their behavior.

6. Communication is an ongoing measurable process, just as other business processes; communication is not a campaign, product, or event.

7. You can influence communication, especially when you shape and manage the communication processes, but you cannot control the messages.

8. More communication is not better communication. Be respectful of information overload. Be succinct.

9. Be personal and appeal to people’s hearts, not just heads. This helps you cut through the clutter to get and hold people’s attention. You’ll also help them recall your message if you use memorable, visual phrases. For example, instead of saying “We want to be profitable by 2017,” appeal to “Be in the green by 2017.”

10. Informal interactions, especially face-to-face, are more influential than formal communication so make time to get around and talk with people.

11. Formal communication, which helps reinforce the informal interactions, takes time to consider, plan, and execute, especially if you’re coordinating among a team of people who will sending messages. If you wait to think about the communication when you’re ready to implement a change or introduce a new program, it’s too late.

12. Effective communication cannot guarantee successful results; however, the absence of effective communication or poor execution can contribute to failure.


October 21, 2015

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