Beware the “communications police”


No one likes a spoilsport—and we as communicators don’t want to be one. But we do run the risk of sometimes grating on the nerves of internal clients within our organizations by coming across as the “Communications Police”. This unfortunate phenomenon is one in which internal clients perceive that their communications officer is primarily in the business of slowing down projects out of concern for communications imperatives. A policy team might be all excited to send out a new report or advisory, and wham! it gets blocked by a terse email citing inconsistent messaging or a potential PR landmine.

This is tricky territory, because the reality is that you do occupy a role in which being strategic sometimes does mean raising concerns or recommending a stop to some initiatives. When you’re rubber-stamping any and all initiatives across your organization, you’re clearly not doing your job well.

And yet, of course, it’s vital to maintain constructive relationships with your colleagues in order to help your own work and to help your organization meet its larger goals. That’s why you should counterbalance your occasional “Communications Police” interventions with ongoing positive and supportive contributions to your colleagues’ efforts. Keep your eyes open for chances to use communications creatively in advancing your internal clients’ objectives. If a research team is seeking international profile, for instance, you might suggest opportunities for visibility, or send web links to upcoming conferences or papers of interest. Adding value in this way is generally much appreciated.

You can also demonstrate your commitment to your internal client’s success even when you’re not working on an active file together. Reaching out by sending interesting articles, links to blogs, or even an invitation for coffee can go a long way in building positive relationships. You can draw on that goodwill for those moments when it’s time to don your Communications Police hat.

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