C is for engagement – Part 3 of 4


In any business or organisation, people can perform two roles. Their own and communications. Right?

Throughout my career in communications, it’s been a constant bugbear that those who do not work in our profession think it is easy, and something they can do – sometimes better – than the people they pay to do it. Can you imagine a senior technician ignoring their colleague in HR and riding roughshod over their policy because ‘they know best’? And yet, doing the same with communications can create significant reputational problems and damage engagement.

We all know that being a capable communicator is not easy though.

Technical expertise

First of all there is the technical knowledge required. Myriad systems and channels demand often encyclopedic knowledge to operate to their full potential. You need to constantly stay on top of the foibles and intricacies of the latest releases, and be familiar and comfortable navigating the back end of content management systems that seem to be redundant weeks after they are launched.

Which brings us naturally to IT. How many colleagues and peers who work in communications have you spoken to who cite IT as a barrier, rather than a facilitator? There is a great irony that the ‘information’ systems our businesses and organisations deploy seem to get in the way of our ability to communicate the way we know we can or should. Why is this? Well, the protection of data and integrity of complex networks is an obvious priority. This tends to make systems and processes risk averse, slow to change and often lagging behind what is happening ‘in the real world’.

The diplomat

But it is vital you engage with those in charge to influence this. The impact on your ability to do your job, to engage with and change the behaviours of your audience, is directly impacted by the IT systems you work with. You need to work to quantify this impact, ideally in pounds and pennies, if people at a senior level are ever to take notice.

Next there are those senior leaders. The egos and the politics. Gaining the respect and trust of your leadership team is perhaps the most fundamental prerequisite if we are to be capable of doing a good job. But that is easier said than done. It requires your ability to illustrate credibility (which we’ll come to next time), and confidently but concisely making them aware of the complexity of good, engaging communication. It may also involve a great deal of diplomacy and negotiation, which will stand you in good stead as long as you retain your integrity and always behave professionally and objectively. Ask yourself – what is best for your business? How does your influence help or hinder that?

We, and I’m thinking particularly about internal communicators here, need to prove our worth in a way many other professionals do not. Accept this challenge and become the champion of your capability.

Our changing role

And, finally, there is the changing role of the communicator. Many of us will still spend much of our time and energy creating and delivering. But an increasing number of corporate communicators are concentrating on building the infrastructure to allow local colleagues to deliver local messages in an engaging and timely manner. So we devolve much of our traditional operations and become facilitators and coaches, working far more strategically than ever before.

Producing engaging communications demands a lot of capability. So next time an engineer tells you how to do your job, ask them for a shot of their welding machine.

To find out more, email Daniel Lambie or call 0141 560 3040