'Be confident in the role we play - our moment is now'.
Yesterday I listened in to a free webinar hosted by the EMENA Region of the Internal Association of Business Communicators (IABC) with guest speaker Professor Anne Gregory who spoke about adding value through communications. I thought I’d write a blog about it today because it left me with renewed vigour and I must admit, I drove home with my head held a little higher last night. Small pleasures and all that...
It's obvious that Anne has a multitude of experience to impart, and I can't even attempt to summarise everything she talked about. What I wanted to touch on was what really struck me about her talk - the clear purpose(s) she feels that we have as communicators, the real importance of our roles and the impact we have in and on the industry.
Anne believes that communications is becoming more and more influential and recognised for its contribution in business. That's due to a lot of hard work, as we all know, and we're still not completely in the clear. As Anne noted, there are always threats to the role of the communicator - could comms be absorbed into marketing? Could Managing Consultants steal our business? Gulp - difficult questions for the future.
But back to us and our purpose. One of the three biggest issues on the agenda at the World Economic Forum this year was a lack of leadership. Research shows that leaders are regarded as selfish and not living up to their values, among other things. How can we fix this? Firstly, by listening. Anne's research shows that people believe listening is one of the most important contributions a person, or indeed an organisation can make. She said that 'too many organisations build architectures of telling and speaking, and what we need are architectures that are receptive to listening.' That's where we step up. Ask any communicator and they'll say one of their most treasured skills is listening. We're the conscience of the organisation and being the corporate conscience is one of the biggest contributions we can make to business.
It also helps us write our authentic narrative for a business, something that leaders certainly expect of us as communicators. As a Content Manager, this thrills me most. I think we all agree with Anne that anybody can come up with a story about an organisation – but those stories need to be believed. She described a great narrative as ‘being rooted in the past, having truth in it and being able to be carried forward to the future. And it having corporate character.’ Good job I didn’t try and put it better myself, because I couldn’t have.
Our job as communicators has so many facets, but Anne brought everything together very well at the end of the presentation describing the core role of the communicator in four parts:
1. Orienteer – making sure we’re pointing towards true north, being an organisation that has a narrative based on a proper set of values we live day by day.
2. Navigator – despite choppy water you must mediate complex times where stakeholders don’t agree and help the organisation chart a course by getting everybody on the same page. Making internal adjustments to maintain legitimacy going forward.
3. Catalyst – looking at and understanding processes and systems, ways of working that tell the organisation’s narrative on a daily basis.
4. Implementer – be the creator of really outstanding campaigns that demonstrate contribution.
As communicators we operate in everyone’s territory, our thinking comes from outside in and we are one of the fortunate few to have a complete bird’s eye view of the businesses we work for. So we really should have confidence in the role we play.