What internal communicators don’t do

From planning events to doctoring PowerPoint decks, tasks that shouldn’t fall to you end up in your lap anyway. Here’s help in drawing the line so you can focus on big-picture issues.

Communicators are well versed in answering, “What do you actually do?”

Rather than reeling off a list of skills, knowledge and accomplishments, should we be explaining what we don’t do?

Newsweaver recently hosted a webinar on how to create and run a corporate newsroom. It started by explaining what a newsroom isn’t.

It is not a press room, media relations nor the team overseeing the intranet. It is about having a journalistic mindset that identifies and tells stories reflecting the corporate strategy while using editorial standards and practices.

Internal communication can be a catch-all for anything in an organization that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else. This demonstrates people’s lack of understanding about what we do, and it severely damages our credibility and ability to become valued, trusted advisers.

By continually repeating what we do, and not spelling out what we don’t do, are we missing a trick? We asked the communications community to offer the biggest misconceptions about their jobs:

Messengers. People think we simply regurgitate messages and post them on various channels. We must remember that many employees aren’t in on key meetings and conversations. We must demonstrate all that we can do for those people who approach us only when they have a story to publish on the intranet.

Official photographers. Having access to a camera is not the same thing as being a professional photographer. Unfortunately, many people assume it’s one of our many talents. If internal communicators can take a decent photo on their smartphones, so can everyone else.

Party planners. Thinking through the key messages to be conveyed at an event, coaching speakers on how to engage an audience and ensuring that everything clearly links to the overall strategy are part of the role of an internal communicator. Creating delegate lists, overseeing the catering and creating signage for the lavatories are not.

Intranet owners. Yes, we use the intranet; no, we don’t own it. Internal communications might take responsibility for the home page and news pages, but team sites should fall to the respective teams. Internal comms can support and advise, but it is not our job to post, manage or archive content for team sites.

Marketing’s internal PR. Many internal communicators collaborate with marketing, which can lead to the misconception that we exist purely to churn out internally the messages they’ve already communicated externally. Avoid that by being visible: Spend time away from your desk, speaking and listening to people to find out what’s going on, and invite yourself to the relevant meetings.

Masters of spin. It’s bad enough if people think the company they work for spins bad news internally; it’s even worse if they believe internal communicators are the masterminds behind it. We have to be trusted, and once that trust is lost it’s very hard to win back. This perception is about more than just the comms team: If people think you spin, they’ll think the problem is endemic to the wider organization. Find proof of this sentiment, and have honest conversations with senior leaders to address the issue.

PowerPoint beauticians. We’re often seen as the go-to gurus of the slide deck. We can help ensure messaging is positioned correctly, but as far as changing the color of the template background or aligning bullet points, we’ll pass, thank you.

Word magicians. “Can you sprinkle your magic on this?” is one of the most infuriating sentences in the history of communication. It’s inevitable that we will write as part of our job, which is brilliant, as many of us love doing it. That doesn’t mean we are the only people in our organizations who should be writing. As more and more companies adopt two-way collaboration channels, people can create their own content, leaving us to coach, advise and focus on the more strategic aspects of our job.

How many of us do tasks like those above because we know that if we don’t do it, no one else will? It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We have to push back, challenging and simply saying no to tasks that aren’t in our job description. Create tools and guides to empower others in the organization to do it themselves. Coach people in key communication skills such as writing to take away some of the doing from you, leaving you free to engage in creative thinking.

What else would you add? Would you consider publishing a list of what your job description isn’t in your organizations? Please offer your thoughts in the comments.

A version of this article originally appeared on Alive with Ideas.

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