Communicators rarely take time away from deadlines to reflect on their work and careers.
That’s a recipe for burnout, says Mark Hendrickson, director of strategic communications at Moffitt Cancer Center. Here’s his advice for a happier, healthier career:
1. Dare to detox. “Being connected 24/7 causes burnout and no one is immune,” says Mark Hendrickson, director of strategic communications at Moffitt Cancer Center. “My advice is to unplug from the ‘electronic monsters’ we rely on as communicators.”
Disconnecting helps you stay healthy in body and mind, he says. “The quiet solitude will also provide you with your best ideas and help you make sense of the craziness at work.”
His personal escape is running, which he does daily—at 11 p.m. “The discipline to lace up the shoes that late has helped me become more disciplined at work,” says Hendrickson.
He’s also incredibly disciplined when it comes to his nightly digital detox.
“I charge my phone upstairs when I get home so I’m not constantly looking to see who has emailed, texted or posted,” Hendrickson says. “I also set a do-not-disturb from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., and I go old school with my iPod classic when I hit the pavement running.”
2. Look for stories everywhere. Storytelling can be a communicator’s most valuable skill. Yet many don’t hone it because it can be intimidating.
The solution is to look within your organization and find “small stories” worth telling.
“Throw everything into the mix—no matter how crazy it sounds,” Hendrickson says. “Focus on little details that interest you and you’ll find one that’s surprising. Start there. Don’t try to start with the big, sweeping stories—those can come later. “
His team, for example, recently brainstormed story ideas for the center’s biannual magazine. The topic of employees volunteering their time arose as a possible topic.
“We threw out names and came across one of our researchers who makes annual trips to Ghana,” Hendrickson says. “That was the surprising detail. When we brainstormed the idea with him, he invited our writer to participate on his next trip. She’s now going to Ghana with him, writing a feature about it, filing daily briefs and gathering video. We’ll be able to use this for our magazine, as well as for social media and other features on our brand journalism site.”
3. Don’t fear “the audit.” Unlike a tax audit, a communication audit isn’t something to dread. A deep analysis of your content doesn’t spotlight shortcomings. Rather, it helps you revise, re-invigorate and relaunch your messaging.
“Audits provide data to support changes you want to make,” says Hendrickson, who recently completed one with the help of Ragan Consulting Group. “Leadership loves data and is more likely to support your changes if it’s in black and white.”
For example, he gave the daily communications email an overhaul as a result of the audit.
“Turns out that 75% of our staff were only reading some of it,” Hendrickson says. “So we’re now including only five need-to-know items and pushing the rest to a landing page.”
Communication audits are time-consuming, however. “Allow three solid months from development of questions to presentation of data and recommendations,” he says.
“Don’t try to administer an audit on your own,” he adds. “Having a third party helps, in that they have no biases and can provide the right resources and data to support change.”
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and event producer. Jim Ylisela, co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group, will reveal more audit insights in Ragan Training’s Oct. 4 webinar, “5 Steps to a Winning Communications Audit” with guests Guillermo Fuentes (Southern New Hampshire University) and Mark Hendrickson (Moffitt Cancer Center).