When watching a soap opera, be it “The Young & Restless” or “General Hospital,” you can return to the show seven months later and it’s like you’ve never stopped watching. The characters are mostly the same and the plot has hardly changed. It’s predictable, comfortable, easy to follow, a little bit exciting — but nothing earth-shattering.
Let that not be the guiding light for communicators.
We are at a defining moment of inflection and action for the profession. The silver lining laid bare by the pandemic, social unrest, political division, the Great Resignation and a heated economy has cast you and your fellow communicators as strategic leaders in your organization.
You are being noticed and recognized for effecting change around seminal marketplace issues: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, employee culture, social justice, climate change, and more. As consumers trust the business community over government and media (per Edelman Trust Barometer), it’s on communicators like you to keep your organization true to its promises.
The people, profits and planet concerns of the C-suite are now shared and often co-led by the communications department. This is the moment. Meet it; don’t squander it.
At Ragan, we are in touch with communicators every day who are simultaneously excited about this moment and sometimes in disbelief that they are being recognized and elevated on the org chart. It’s a moment that won’t come often.
Our conversations with the community make it clear that some work needs to be done to dissolve the silos between departments and disciplines to make sure that this silver lining of the past few years does not disappear.
“Meet the Moment” is the theme of this year’s Communications Week, which will be held Nov. 1-4 in New York and other cities worldwide. During Communications Week we are bringing together PR, employee comms and other business leaders around the idea that thinking strategically and boldly to meet the moment – and not accept playing a small role in your organization – should be high on your to-do list. If you haven’t already done so, consider your alignment with your counterparts down the (virtual) hall:
HR and Comms: This is one of the most critical partnerships you can forge. From messaging to morale, from wellness to WFH strategies, your Human Resources counterparts need you not as order takers but as change makers. Hybrid workforce strategies and DE&I initiatives will flounder without the two departments aligned and valuing one another.
Internal & External Comms: The age of mixternal communications is here: with social media leaks and employee activism at an all-time high, what’s internal is external and vice versa. Those focused on employee comms, executive comms, manager comms and other internal roles need to be in regular (if not daily then multiple times each week) contact with their PR colleagues charged with media relations, brand storytelling, product launches, community relations and the like. The silos between the two are breaking – that’s the good news. Other initiatives that can benefit from this mixternal collaboration include CSR, ESG and employer branding.
Digital and Comms: Get more involved in workplace conversations around digital innovation. This requires you to partner with IT, web design and development teams to maximize brand reputation internally and externally, not to mention traversing Web3 together.
CFO, Investor Relations and Comms: Are you as fluent in speaking about the business as you are in talking about PESO, outputs and outcomes? Are you comfortable holding an acronym-laced conversation around P&L, EBITDA and GAAP? Are you able to demonstrate how your PR or your internal communications results contribute to organizational health? The value of comms is inextricably tied to the stability of your organization.
Marketing, Sales and Comms: your grasp of the marketing and sales goals of your organization (or client) allows you to integrate those goals into your communications plan — and tie them to business outcomes. The disconnect between marketing and comms sometimes stems from a lack of communication – like the cobbler’s kids without shoes, the comms leader can sometimes de-prioritize communication with other departments.
Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Comms: It’s wonderful to finally see the spotlight on environmental, social and governance (ESG). Employees, investors and consumers expect that the company they work for, invest in, and buy from is mindful of its impact on the planet and people. Communicators should continue to participate in C-suite conversations around ESG and share stories of purpose and progress.
CEO and Comms: It does not go without saying that the CEO needs you and you need the CEO. This symbiotic relationship has strengthened during the pandemic as leadership now puts a premium on employee communications and looks to you for ideas and activation around brand strategy, employee morale and thought leadership. Shrinking violets need not apply – this is your time to shine and make a difference.
Working without the close collaboration of these departments puts you back in the soap opera, reading your lines and leading a predictable career. You deserve better.
If you’re interested in boosting the value of comms and attracting and retaining the talent necessary for a bright future, it’s essential you carve out some time to consider who you’re spending time with at your organization and find ways to meet the moment together. The moment might still include plot twists and drama like in a soap opera, but at least you won’t get canceled.