The question I receive most often from communicators is “How can I be more strategic?”
Here are my top five suggestions on enhancing your strategic value in a communications function:
- Ask good questions. The quickest way to add strategic value is to ask insightful questions that help sharpen focus on desired outcomes and results. Asking questions such as “What does success look like?” “Why this, why now?” and “What are our audiences looking for?” will immediately enhance the calibre of your communications contributions. Here are my suggested Top 10 Questions in Strategic Communications.
- Apply outside-in thinking. As a communicator, you are essentially the “glue” between your organization and the public you serve. In this capacity, you can contribute unique strategic value by bringing that external perspective to internal discussions on issues or projects. Make it a practice to wear the “audience” hat in meetings or in conversations – ask questions and make contributions that bring the audience perspective into the deliberations.
- Hone your skills in public environment analysis. Develop your skills in public analysis, and build your knowledge of your own organization’s issue environment. Becoming immersed in the latest trends, public opinion, and data in your space will help build your strategic “instinct” to emerging issues, crises or opportunities.
- Connect the dots. One of the most powerful ways in which you can contribute strategic value is by making it a practice to connect the dots around you – this is the habit of thinking holistically, and seeing the inter-connections between issues, information and trends which may otherwise seem unrelated.
- Embrace evaluation. In order to think like a strategist, you need to be comfortable in the language and methodology of evaluation. The ability to clarify the kind of results that you’re targeting, and telling the difference between mere outputs and actual outcomes is pivotal.
I’m betting that you already do many of these things as part of your day-to-day work. A good place to start in your commitment to enhancing the strategic value of your role is to identify what you’re already doing in this area. Think about what’s working, and why – this way you can build on your strengths, and what you know works for you and your organization.