Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't ask for work - fill the need

I'm finding that there's a plethora of talented freelancers out there all chasing limited amounts of work at the moment.

I've been doing my bit to build some new links and re-establish old ones - but haven't yet resorted to tapping up contacts with the 'gissa job' line made famous by 'Yosser' in 'Boys from the Black Stuff'

So far, the cold lead approaches have been met by stony silence - and frankly in an industry that lives and dies on relationships, I wouldn't expect anything else.

But I had an interesting conversation last week with an agency MD who appeared to be operating on very much the same lines as my recent forays into finding new projects: we agreed that there was no point just offering our services to fill any gap there might be. Instead, we were far better off identifying a need and showing that we were the best people to fill that need.

The more conversations I have with people - those who already give me projects on a semi-regular basis, and also those I'd like to work more with - the more I'm tuning in to a few areas dominating organisational comms at the moment.

Within the wide area of engaging the workforce in a downturn, there are some specific needs emerging where effective organisational communication can help. So for the moment I'm targeting:

  • Aligning communication activity with business priorities - my old chestnut, focus on the outcome not the output;
  • Making leaders work harder as communicators - ensure they're seen to be leaders and give them the skill and tools to pull their people in one direction;
  • Employee retention in tough times - how can you keep top talent engaged and creating a halo for the rest of us mere mortals; and
  • Corporate responsibility - how can you ensure your employer brand still shines when all around are battening down the hatches.

All of these activities are aimed first at communicators, but are intended to open conversations with their Leadership teams and HR functions in particular. It's early days yet, but it's surprising the doors that are opened when you come along with a very specific proposition rather than simply touting talents without purpose.

In-house teams are in a tough position: budgets are slim but the workload's increasing - and recession is unfamiliar territory. In my experience, that's fertile ground for experienced, cost-effective and motivated freelancers.

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