One of the things that often drives communicators crazy about their jobs is the Superhero Consultant syndrome. You’ve been advocating for months—maybe even years—in favour of a course of action your organization should take to step up its communications. You know it’s the right thing to do, and you’ve got research and consultation findings to bolster your case. But still you’ve been hitting a brick wall, time and time again. Then one day a consultant is hired, flying in wearing a fancy suit (and carrying a hefty per diem rate to match) and presto! The senior leadership magically sees the light, endorsing precisely the approach you’ve been urging all along.
I get it; I am that dreaded consultant. However, it’s too easy to frame this as a ‘consultant versus staff communicator’ battle for credibility. There’s more to it than that, involving some very real issues of internal client management.
To boost your credibility, try to unleash your inner consultant. Think of yourself as a highly valued and recognized strategist: how would you engage with your clients? What would you expect of them, and what would they expect of you? As you try out this experiment, think about the foundational enablers required to position yourself as a valued internal consultant:
Trust: If you don’t have trust, you have nothing. It’s is a precondition of any communication or collaboration.
Credibility: Your credibility is a valuable asset that should be cultivated and protected. Think carefully about what behaviours, contributions and relationships help build your credibility ‘equity,’ and about factors that erode it. The truism about credibility is that it can take years to build, and moments to kill.
Alignment: To be recognized as a go-to expert in communications, it’s critical that you be seen to be working in alignment with your internal clients’ objectives and priorities. They need to get an immediate sense that you’re on their team and you’re committed to contributing to their success.
Sometimes shifting your own mindset in approaching colleagues and managers can do wonders in terms of shifting their perception of your skills and value.
Give it a try. You may not emerge a caped superhero from the experiment, but it’ll probably bring some surprisingly positive results for your internal client relationships. The Manifesto for Strategic Communications might also be helpful on your journey!