Becoming a Strategic Communications Rock Star

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of leading a packed house full of dynamic communications practitioners through a workshop on Becoming a Strategic Communications Rock Star for the Ottawa chapter of IABC . The group was a great mix of staff communicators from the private, public and NGO/association sectors, and a number of consultants.

As you can imagine, the Rock Star theme led to some lively conversations – mainly around finding strategies to elevate the positioning of the communications function so that we can make maximum contributions to the organizations we serve. It was a refreshing opportunity to step back from the frenetic pace of the day-to-day – rather than focus on what we do, consider how we do it, and identify practical ways to step up our game through high performance consultative skills.

Here are my top 5 strategies for rocking the communications function:

  1. Drive alignment – Focus on ensuring that communications deliberately supports organizational objectives. Demonstrate that through effective communications, your organization can achieve its goals better, faster, cheaper.
  2. Adopt a strategic state of mind –  Begin any communications activity or campaign by first carefully considering what success looks like.  Starting with the end in mind is the antidote to the reactive, ad hoc pace of work that is so characteristic of communications teams.
  3. Outside-in thinking – Embrace your role as the “glue” between the organization and the publics/stakeholders you serve. Think about how you can add value by injecting sound public environment analysis into your day-to-day contributions.
  4. Connect the dots – One of the most valued, and most difficult skills to hire for is the ability to integrate. Make it a practice to consider how various initiatives/projects/priorities are inter-connected, and identify opportunities to maximize impact or innovation by looking for strategic points of intersection between them.
  5. Ask questions that count – The easiest way to immediate add value is to ask insightful questions. Good questions are at the heart of a strong consultative approach to working with internal and external clients. They immediately set up a constructive, positive dialogue, and can be tremendously useful in defusing tension or conflict (as in: “Help me understand why you’d like us to set up a Twitter account in order to promote our upcoming employee award program video?” ) I’m such a passionate believer in the power of questions that I’m offering a full workshop on the theme in a few weeks at IABC’s Canada Conference.

Check out the workshop presentation here.