Some communicators are unhappy seeing communications as a business enabler and support function to their organization. Perhaps they feel that the art of messaging is so verbal, creative or different from everything else an organization does that it’s something else altogether.
Whatever the rationale, this attitude is factually misguided and professionally unhelpful.
The essential truth is this: We don’t communicate for the sake of communications. We communicate in order to help our organizations go further in achieving their strategic objectives.
Although some of us dislike the term, it is useful to use a structural reference point to understand the positioning of the role of communications.
Communications is indeed a central support function for an organization—it’s the glue between what’s inside the corporate walls and the public outside. The communicator’s job is by definition to advance corporate goals by spreading the right messages to the right audiences in the right ways. In doing so, you’re not just solving communications problems—you’re solving business problems.
If you take a step back and look at the big picture, I think you’ll see that your role in helping to drive alignment between communications and the organization is one of the key spaces where you can add unique strategic value, and really shine. It sets you up to be making meaningful, relevant contributions that make a difference to your organization’s ultimate success.
This mindset is the difference between simply writing a brochure or a speech on a particular initiative as a stand-alone deliverable and the ability to elevate the conversation to a strategic level – engaging with your colleagues and executives to understand the context and then make recommendations that best meet the target. What is the initiative about? What’s its purpose? Who do we want to reach? Why are these audiences important? As you’ll see in the next few pages, asking high-gain questions like these is the secret sauce in setting yourself up for success in driving alignment and adding real strategic value to your organization.
Adopting this alignment-focused view of communications matters deeply to your success as a strategic communicator, because it makes all the difference in what you’ll consider relevant knowledge and relevant goals for your work. It will also make a big difference in keeping you alert to the fact that as a communicator you need to talk the same ‘language’ as your corporate colleagues to some extent, and show a commitment to the same performance values, in order to establish your professional stating. For instance, all other parts of a corporation are expected to evaluate their performance regularly and take accountability for goals missed or attained—and so should you. (That’s why, in the Evaluate phase of the Results Map, you’ll see that I think that evaluation is not only indispensable for strategic planning, but professionally indispensable too.)
The risks of failing to appreciate this integrated role of communications are significant. I have seen communications shops relegate themselves to being completely ghettoized because they are seen as irrelevant, unhelpful and – in some extreme cases – disruptive to achieving the organization’s goals. This, of course, is the kiss of death for the communications function, and for the career prospects of an individual communicator.