Stop ‘Doing’ Communication
The following is part of our most recent publication released online, "IC in 2017 & 2018 FROM HOPE TO REALITY How Far We've Come | The Road Ahead." Looking back at their greatest hope for the IC profession in 2017 in terms of where the discipline should be, 21 communication professionals from different countries answer two questions: How far have we actually come in 2017? What remains to be done in 2018?
Stephen Welch, FRSA, Independent Consultant, shares his views on the progress made these past months, to what extent he believes his hope has translated into reality, and what remains to be done in 2018. To read the views of all contributors, download the free 42-page eBook here.
My biggest hope for the profession is that we move from press officer to brand consultants or ad agencies. Internal communication professionals should become more coaches and strategic advisers to senior management, not people who actually “do” communication. Every time an internal communication person actually ‘does’ a communication, a leader somewhere is not doing his or her job.
My hope is that IC profession starts to realise that output is not a measure of success. No advertising agency measures their success in terms of numbers of ads bought. Instead they win prizes for quality, originality, and influencing consumer behaviour. The sooner IC acts more like an ad agency or brand consultant for leaders and less like a press officer for them, the better. So long as I get to be Richard Whitman.
How far we've come. Next steps.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. Are the majority of IC professionals press officers who worry about content and “sending out stuff”? Yes. But are there voices talking about the shift to brand consultants and ad agencies? Also yes. These are the vanguards of the profession, and listening to these voices gives me hope that things might change. The alcoholic has admitted her addiction, but that is a long way from solving the problem. I believe that, still, the majority of professionals in the field measure their work by activity, not outcome. I was speaking to a senior IC person in a large global company who was obsessed by the decision about whether the new e-Zine should be one column or two. I know of another organization that employs 300 communication professionals. What is going on? So, no, I don’t think the goal has been achieved, but we are at least having a more powerful debate about the need for change.
We need to keep talking, and we need to keep listening. Listening to our customers more. Listening to the business. Understanding. Questioning. Clarifying. Learning. And we need to be more courageous. Sometimes the best thing to do is to say ‘no’ and challenge leaders. But it is tricky to balance your internal reputation with what is right for the organization. Saying ‘yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, sir’ (as the nursery rhyme has it) is much easier than the potentially career-limiting challenging conversation. But sometime the consequences of saying ‘no’ are less than you think, and you might get more respect.
Click here to download the free 42-page eBook "IC in 2017 & 2018 FROM HOPE TO REALITY How Far We've Come | The Road Ahead."
Stephen Welch, FRSA