The way a comms team organises itself to deliver its key activities and priority work is one of the most important nuts to crack. But who does what? To help a new comms team JD resource has been launched as a free download.
by Darren Caveney
Last year I worked with several teams to help them shape new comms strategies and approaches in order to recognise increasing demands and reducing resources. As a part of this I wrote many a new job description which opened the door to the generalists vs specialist debate which has been around for a little while.
And when I was recently asked to speak on a panel on this ongoing debate it prompted me to try and visualise a simple model to help explain my thoughts. I tweeted the pic and it seemed to generate lots of interest.
I have now refined this COMMS TEAM 2.0 JD and made it available as a free to download resource.
Generalists vs Specialists – the sequel
This is by no means a new discussion. We’ll all have different experiences and views on this.
The first thing I would say is that I don’t like the ‘generalist’ tag. Personally, I would hate to be described as a generalist. I’m not sure it does us or our profession any favours. It doesn’t seem like great branding – and we’re a profession who should be pretty savvy when it comes to branding. Do other professions describe themselves as generalists? Not sure I have ever come across it.
We are all specialist communications professionals and of course we’ll all have varying skills and experiences. But generalist, no. Let’s not use that term.
Does the generalist model work?
Maybe, maybe not, Again, we will all have our experiences of this, either as a comms lead or as a member of a team. I’m not 100% convinced by it and have seen it stutter.
So what is better?
I believe that every comms team member - from head to assistant - needs to be able to effectively deliver the core comms skills detailed in the JD download. Then, other specialist areas need to be delivered by those in the team with the right experience and knowledge.
For a team to perform at the highest level the difference between core and specialist skills needs to be understand and reflected in the team structure.
What does this mean in practice?
Back in the day we had an internal communications person who did internal comms. And then when he or she was off on holiday for two weeks we had an internal comms gap and issue. Someone else – not always skilled – stepped I to cover. We know this isn’t a smart of sustainable model.
The same happened with press officers – they generally did press office duties.
Most teams have evolved and moved on from this now.
Core skills – it’s everyone’s job
So in my Comms Team 2.0 JD everyone in the team is responsible for delivering tactical internal comms, for example. So if you’re a comms officer delivering a campaign you want your staff to know about then you can and should deliver these messages internally – post to the intranet, add it as a discussion in Yammer, post it as a topic on Slack, put some flyers on noticeboards. You don’t need to ask and wait for the dedicated internal comms person (if you have one) to do this.
When it comes to delivering a big change programme with associated messaging and delivery to all staff then that’s a specialist role and your specialist internal comms person should absolutely step in and lead this.
The same principal applies to social media, to web, to campaign work.
Basic comms planning should be a core skill of everyone in the team.
Every team member should be able to research the plan and then evaluate and repot back on it. But the annual communications strategy should be led by your most senior comms person, albeit working with the whole team and utilising their ideas and creativity in the process.
Download the JD and make it your own
Get it right and this JD model can be used as the basis for ALL of your team job descriptions. The core skills you decide upon sit in every single job description. If you have ever had to write a stack of new JDs you’ll know that this approach will save you a lot of time and thinking.
And the JD resource it can also be used to shape and determine the team member makeups of your key campaign teams which wil deliver against your organisational priorities in 2018.
1. One size fits all rarely works
This is not intended to be a one size fits all - this model is a starting point to help you tailor a team JD to suit your organisation. But the resource won’t be a million miles away from a good way to organise your approach, your team, your campaign team planning and your job descriptions.
2. If you’re a team of two you’ll do everything
Of course for small teams you don’t necessarily have the luxury of allocating roles like this. But you can use the JD download as a checklist to ensure you are delivering all of the key activities needed to be effective.
3. Flexibility is key
All models and approaches need to be flexible. So when that media crisis lands you want to be able to put your best media relations person on it. If an important research piece is needed then get your best person at finding, understanding and using all available intel and insight. That’s just common sense, using the team in a smart way.
I hope it’s helpful - let me know how you get on at firstname.lastname@example.org
Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd