Stephanie Ryan looks at how communications shops can develop and maintain their reputations as solid service providers that bring value to an organization. Discover more about #corporatecommunications and other communication areas at the IABC Heritage Region Conference, Oct. 9-11, in Columbus, Ohio. #IABCHRCONF iabcheritageconference.com
As a communications professional, you’ve heard it all before: either you just work on the “fun-stuff” or “the fluff” in your organization or you’re an over-thinking planner who asks too many questions. You may also have noticed that there is little awareness of the value of the work you do and how it benefits your organization.
To counter those mistaken impressions, communications teams need to clearly demonstrate the integrity of their work, the quality of their service and the results they achieve. Together, this will help build and sustain the credibility of the communications function, such that it’s seen as a valuable ally during business growth and it’s not the first on the chopping block in a downturn. Here are three approaches to try:
- Take a team perspective when hiring.
Each member of a communications team should have one specific area of expertise and secondary experience in several. When hiring, look at the entire skill set of the group to determine what additional skills you need. Hiring to complement and expand the capacity of the whole shop makes the team more flexible and gives it more depth, which can be essential as new business activities ramp-up. It also means there is less risk of becoming over-staffed and at risk for reductions.
- Create and consistently apply standard, repeatable processes.
Emulate your colleagues in areas such as accounting and procurement. They all have standard processes and procedures. Create processes in your shop for such activities as initiating a project, developing a strategic plan and handling translation requests. Then, educate your internal clients about them, and be sure both they and you follow them consistently.
- Benchmark your work.
Keeping up with what similar organizations are doing has many benefits. First, it is a great way to gauge individual performance. It will also give senior communications staffers the information they need to build business cases for hiring, adopting a new strategy or reorganizing the function. In small-to-medium sized organizations—in which the communications department is often only one or two people managed by a non-specialist—benchmarking can provide useful perspective on your approaches and results. Sharing this data with key influencers at regular intervals will keep them informed. This can be useful when senior management has to make business decisions that will— for better or for worse—affect the communications function.
Building and sustaining credibility is an ongoing process. The ideas above are just some of what I will be sharing in my presentation, Sustaining Good Corporate Communications During Rapid Business Growth or Budget Reductions at the IABC Heritage Region Conference October 9 to 11, 2016. In particular, I’ll be looking at how to set up a lean but effective communications shop and how best to show that your team’s work is aligned with industry best practices and providing value for the organization.