We communicators talk a lot about being strategic. But in the never-ending cycle of cuts, restructures and transformation programmes it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of being strategic. But we mustn’t let that happen.
by Paul Masterman
Leaders across the public services are repeatedly singing the same Blues:
“Woke up this morning, baby…...and my comms team ain’t strategic enough.”
For all the workshops we’ve attended about getting a seat at the top table, many senior PR folk are not only not at the table they are not even in the right room.
I’ve seen good and talented communicators fall at the last hurdle of head of communications recruitment processes because they not seen by interview panels to be “strategic”. Executive directors complain that their comms account managers “just don’t get what we do.”
This disconnect between what our organisations need and what we are offering them is reflected in the challenge to the profession thrown out by the chief executives who contributed to the #FutureComms resource.
Adapt or die, they said. To thrive in the modern public services, communications professionals must now have a strategic brain, an ability to look ahead and spot trends, the craft to tell and share stories and the expertise to create and sustain brands.
In other words, “being strategic” is about thinking beyond creative and competent comms and to start acting as someone with the understanding, insight and credible voice to help focus an organisation’s thinking and planning not just communicate its doings.
To to start operating at this strategic level it does help to have a strategy. Who knew?
Have you really looked into the heart of your organisation, identified its needs and challenges, thought through how communications and engagement will deliver better outcomes for residents or clients - and written down the why, what and how of your work?
As important, are you talking with you senior leaders about more than Facebook and the local newspaper and engaging them on the issues, challenges and ambitions they have for their organisation and their communities? And then translating this into communications that improve lives?
It is this strategic engagement in what is driving your organisation that will get and keep you at the mythical top table. Once there you are in a much stronger position to shape the narrative and challenge out-of-date thinking.
Your boss has told #FutureComms that she wants you at the table, so if you’re not already you need to step up and step in. Now.
It is reassuring at least to see that more of us have seen the light. The latest LGA survey of heads of communications shows three-quarters of respondents’ authorities have a communications strategy aligned to corporate priorities.
But how many of these were created in collaboration with leaders?
How many are being applied properly to campaigns and day-to-day work?
Are you measuring and reporting your team’s performance against the outcomes?
Or is your strategy mouldering at the back of that nasty grey metal cupboard in the corner of the office?
Darren Caveney, Fran Collingham and I want to re-fresh and re-set our thinking on strategy and have deigned a new workshop to give you a chance to work in confidence with your peers on producing your latest strategy or polishing up your old one.
You can find out more about our brand-new Structure Surgery here.
Paul Masterman is a senior communications advisor and you’ll find him on Twitter at @InterimBoy
image via Florida Memory