Friday, April 15, 2005

Do the do - or help others?

It used to be so simple. Managers came to the comms team when they had something to communicate. Consequently, professional communicators could plan and execute and track the response. Hopefully they'd learn from whatever impact the message had created and use that knowledge to make things better next time round the loop. The downside was that communicators could become bottlenecks or spinmeisters or simply didn't know enough about the deep down detail of the relevant part of the organisation to create the right impact with their take on the communication.

But now, especially with the rise of electronic tools, everyone, anywhere within an organisation can be a communicator. The tendency is to go for the immediate: to bypass the professional communicators in order to grab the immediacy. So, much organisational communication is no longer planned. The consequence can be repeated mistakes, informaton overload (or gaps, or duplicaton) and organisational communication chaos.

So where does that lead professional communicators today? Should we strive for that control over the 'doing' once again, or find another role within our organisations?

My view is that we'll always have some role in developing and maintaining the formalised communication - defining the comms strategy; implementing key parts of the plan; owning the corporate channels. But the genie is well and truly out of the bottle now - and there's no way we should want or need to stuff the cork back in.

We've got to move on: to accept that most organisational communication will be generated away from our PCs. But we have a huge role to play as coaches, mentors, setters of standards and policies and educators on how those within our organisations can get the most out of the tools available to them.

That means us knowing our businesses (not just communications) better so that we are seen to have a valuable input into their working lives and can help them use communication as the powerful business tool it should be. No communicator can afford to be sniffy about others 'invading our space' - that way lies King Canute. Instead, we should welcome the interest - it's not an invasion and work from within to embed effective communicaton as the way we get things done.

Still learning

Ok, I've just changed my settings and now anyone can post a comment on this blog - it'll be interesting to see if anyone else is watching.....or if I'm just talking to myself. Still, nothing new there!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bizniss Speak

What is it with corporate communicators? So often we arrive at work as normal people, switch on our PCs and forget the rules of dialogue. Normal language is replaced by a weird hybrid comprising management speak, jargon and a skewed formality that we'd never use when talking to you face to face.

I can understand having to unmangle Byzantine word structures when editing source material from line and project managers for speeches, presentations and the like, but I'd expect more from people who's job is to get people talking within and around their own organisations.

We spend our working lives preaching the benefits of putting yourself in the receiver's shoes when it comes to organisational communication, but too often merely ape how we perceive CEOs should speak. In doing so, we're in danger of missing the connection with our audiences and creating barriers rather than breaking them down.

In the 80s and 90s there was a drive for using plain English to communicate - but often this missed the point too, over simplifying what needed to be said, and creating a patronising 'nanny English' that underestimated the intelligence of those on the receiving end.

It's that intelligence that has to be the start point for finding the right words, the right tone and the right emphasis for communications designed to engage, involve and inspire.

Our audiences are generally bright and well informed. With so many information sources vying for their attention, our words have to grab them. To grab them they need to resonate; to be familiar; to be in the parlance they're comfortable with.

People don't talk in management speak or over-formally with their families or friends. So why should we impose it at work?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

It's my party.....

Weird. I turned 41 today and the level of static, surprise and expectation was just a fraction of 12 months ago.

Last year, 40 was a milestone and one where I felt the need to put an ocean between myself and the day-to-day realities of life. So on April 7 2004, I sat in a baseball stadium watching the Yankees edge out the Devil Rays. Back at the appartment, the phone kept ringing and e-mails regularly clocked up wishing me joy on entering my fifth decade.

Today? Lovely cards and presents from the immediate family and aside from that......nothing.

Still, I got a fortune cookie yesterday saying the '40 is now merely the middle age of youth while 50 is the youth of old age'. Not sure it made me feel any better, but it's nice to have nine years of breathing space before even contemplating getting older!