Successful communicators evaluate and synthesize company communications so that employees trust the messages they are hearing, have shared purpose and confidence in what they need to do and feel progress toward clear goals.
If you can imagine the company that attains to these ideals in their workforce — mutual trust, shared purpose, clarity of prioritized goals, confidence in action — then you can see the full strategic potential in your communication function.
So how does that translate to the actions and behaviors of communicators? What does it look like in the workplace?
The tactical communicator
A tactical communicator gives you emails and other point communications on demand. You ask for an email and you get an email. He does not measure the impact of the email and is not vested in the end result. When the task is completed, the work is done. There is no follow up, no emotional tie to the work for the communicator or for the audience.
The tactical communicator often feels overwhelmed and frustrated by the volume of work because he’s always working on whatever is most urgent as defined, not by business priority or audience demand, but by the perceived political importance of the various requesters.
Despite being overwhelmed and overworked, tactical communicators almost never say no to a project. They rarely even ask why the project is important or whether it carries a message that the employee audience needs to hear and can act upon.
The tactical planner
An average communicator strings emails together with other communication tactics that can include posters, events, social media, video and other pieces of content. She combines these channels and tactics to create one-off campaigns. To some, this looks like strategy, but at bottom it is simply the blending and coordination of tactics to achieve a relatively narrow set of results.
If there are multiple campaigns happening at the same time, she treats each of them discretely. If she has metrics, they are typically oriented to superficial outcomes like attendance and hit counts.
Tactical planners are often excellent as tactical communicators. They may justifiably take great professional pride in the quality of their prose or detail orientation. In the end, though, they do not see it as their job to manage the overall impact of
organizational communications to various audiences.
They rarely account for or advocate for holistic communications planning across multiple projects, and they generally do not bring together people working on parallel work streams who ought to be aware of one another.
The strategic communicator
The strategic communicator knows that her job is to bring people together to forge grand narratives that are direct, purposeful, memorable and actionable. Doing this well will support organizational success in ways that can be hard for competitors to copy.
She accustoms her clients to think deeply about stakeholders, different audiences and downstream effects. In doing so, she champions the prioritization of initiatives and the simplification of messages so that employees trust their leaders, have confidence in what they need to do and share a clear sense of why the work matters.
The strategic communicator advocates for metrics that tie to real business outcomes so that her success is inextricable from the business success of the organization. She inspires leaders to be disciplined, restrained and inspiring in what they say, and she is diligent in contributing to a culture that respects others by recognizing that their time and attention is precious.
If you’re an internal communicator and you want a seat at the strategy table, make sure you are offering insights that connect different efforts across your organization.
No one is better positioned than you to see the collective employee-facing activity that is happening within your company. Use that information wisely to inspire and activate your people!