Be in comms long enough and you see some wearily familiar trends emerge. Does this sound like your job?
by Louise Powney
If you have been chipping away at the comms coalface for long enough (probably with one of those useless plastic coffee stirrers) you will be well aware that like any profession certain truisms emerge.
I know comms isn’t a proper profession like being a doctor or a lawyer. But whilst any chancer, in theory, could wander in off the street and *dread phrase klaxon* “do comms” we all know that this is not a war that should be waged by rank amateurs. If you don’t have a well-fitting tin hat, good luck.
Please find below the ten golden “if … thens” of communications that have revealed themselves to me over 12 long years:
1. IF no-one else wants to do something, THEN anything and everything can suddenly become “comms”.
Stuffing envelopes? Ordering stationery? Blowing up bloody balloons? Standing around like a spare part in a branded t-shirt? If it involves paper, words and/or speaking to people then that, my friend, is all comms when no-one else fancies it. Just leave your dignity at the door, thanks.
2. IF somone is increasingly professionally insecure, THEN the more they will bang on about having their job title capped up.
This is called a positive correlation by people who like graphs, but you will fail to find anything positive about it as you remove all those capital letters for the fifth time, nursing the nascent RSI in your arm.
3. IF someone declaims “You can’t start a sentence with ‘and’!”, THEN they will inevitably tell you that they went to grammar school in the middle of the last century.
And in the wake of that conversation you will inevitably find yourself smugly thinking “And you’ve just exposed yourself to be badly read.” *insert flame emoji*
4. IF you have put loads of thought into something THEN an increasingly large number of holes will be picked in it.
All those holes will eventually join up into one huge hole and what you started with will have all but disappeared into itself. You know what will solve that problem though? A PDF’d newsletter! I know! You can thank me later.
5. IF you haven’t spent hours and hours listening to well-paid colleagues engaged in ill-informed discussion about the colour of a logo or a font THEN you have clearly only been working in comms for a fortnight.
Give it time.
6. IF you hear someone scream “We need a comms stragegy!” THEN all you will actually need to do is replace a single sentence on one webpage.
But you won’t wriggle out of all those fortnightly meetings that always start at 3.30pm on a Friday though! Ha ha!
7. But IF something is actually properly important and/or potentially catastrophic THEN you will only find out about it the week before it launches/kicks off.
But this will only happen if you’re incredibly lucky. For example, you stood next to somone involved on the project’s periphery (ie they once brought a tray of tea into a meeting) whilst buying a sandwich/washing your hands after having a wee/whilst actually standing at a urinal.
8. IF you hear someone say “Oh, we don’t need to tell people that” THEN you’ve just indentified the keyest of key message for the whole shooting match (but it will already be too late, see number 7).
[Insert your own witticism about how it’s useful for comms to be included at the very start of a project, I’m bored of being sarky about it.]
9. IF somene says “I’ve already drafted something, you’ll just need to tweak it!”, THEN you’re looking at a good month of faffing around with whatever it is.
And, yes, it would have been less bother if you had just written it from scratch in the first place. Oh, and for “I’ve already drafted something” read: “I’ve copied and pasted chunks of text from four other council websites into a Word document and not even bothered to cover my tracks by changing the font. It’s all right though, isn’t it, because it’s all in the public domain? Hello?”
10. IF you have no graphic design skills at all THEN no-one thinks that this is a barrier to conjuring up all manner of visual wizardry from a poster to an animated film.
Except graphic designers. They very much see it as a barrier and are acutely aware of who does and who doesn’t share their particular skillset. And if you’ve ever had even the briefest torrid affair with clip art, they can see it all over you like blood splatter doused with Luminol.
Louise Powney is a communications officer in the north west and a former newspaper reporter.