A few weeks ago, I did a planning day with a communications branch. It was an opportunity for the whole team to stop and discuss ‘why are we here?’. As a group, I challenged them to find the words to describe their value to the organisation.
As we went through the exercise to develop their purpose, a clear phrase emerged.
We are here to connect the organisation to our customers.
They saw their value in being the two-way conduit between the organisations’ customers and the organisation. Like any good communications team, they were the vehicle to get information out through social content, media, webinars, the website, and blogs. They also wanted to be the channel for their internal clients to get a perspective on what it was like for their users through social media commentary, media coverage and good old traditional market research. They saw their value was in being able to distribute messages and be the voice of their customers.
That really resonated with me. They had nailed it. This is the value communications can bring to any organisation. We connect the organisation to the outside world.
It is easy to get caught up in the business of your day. You might not get around to reading the media clips. You forget to check the social feed and see how your posts performed. You put an article into your ‘reading pile’ and never get around to actually reading it.
It is easy to focus so much on what is happening inside the organisation and your deliverables that you forget about the world outside.
And this is where we lose our value. While we are busy doing the doing, we lose touch with who we are communicating to and what they need. You become captured in what your organisation wants to do rather than what your audiences needs from you.
If you want to be valued as a communications professional, you need to offer more than just great content. You need to be the voice of your audience, to contribute an alternative perspective.
Once when I was working in government, during a tense and long meeting before a major public announcement, the CEO stopped the conversation and said, ‘Mel, how do you think the market and our clients will perceive this announcement?’. In front of many more senior people and technical experts, she turned to communications.
We had always aspired to have a seat at the table, but at this moment I knew that wasn’t enough. What we need is to have our opinion sought out and valued when we are at the table. We needed to be able to provide a perspective that others didn’t have access to.
To have an opinion, you need to have the information and evidence to back up what you are saying. You need to know your audience, have research and data that means you can contribute to the conversation. You need to connect the organisation to what is really happening outside – and no one has better access to that information than communications.
Has your team lost its way? Do you need to redefine your purpose? Clearly articulate your Why? Get in touch. I love doing planning days with communications teams.