God did not create humans. God is human. Humans are God. God experiences its own creation as humans and all living beings and indeed all of creation. All that you see around you is not separate from you. It is of the same fabric as you and I. It follows the same laws of the universe. What you see around you influences you, what you do with your life affects your surroundings. So where is the separation? There is no separation, only a variety of expressions. Rejoice in the unity of creation. Enjoy being you. Being God.
Over the years, while working as a communicator for multiple industries, I have learnt a great deal from the heads of organisations, who usually tend to be good communicators— it is one of the skills that gets them there. But then there also are some common pitfalls which many companies are prone to when it comes to dealing with their Corporate Communications department. What I have summarised below are some of the most prominent ones, which can easily be avoided by business leaders just by being aware of them. Hope you will find this checklist useful. In no particular order:
Assigning Communications tasks instead of sharing organizational priorities
Too often, and quite inadvertently, Executives resort to giving their Communications department direct communication tasks such as ‘I want a new Facebook page’ or ‘let’s start a monthly newsletter’, or ‘write a press release for this new launch’. This may be a common, or even the default, way of working with creative professionals in many companies but it is certainly not the best.
Want your communications team to get fired up about their work and come up with their most creative ideas? Tell them your organizational goals instead and let THEM come up with the communication plan to help meet them. This ensures the communications strategy is always aligned with that of the organization and the results are relevant to what you want to achieve. This gives your corp comm manager ownership of their decision and ultimately better engagement. Giving them communication tasks undermines their capability to process management issues and deprives you from fully benefitting from their experience.
Bringing in the communications team too late
Communicators are often brought in to the picture just to do the execution of a message. For instance, after a decision has been taken and it is time to put it in an email to all staff; or when the product is nearly ready to hit the market and its advertising plan needs to be chalked out. This is akin to getting a painter after the house has been built to whitewash the walls and make the place look pretty. Instead, consider them like an engineer who works with the architect.
All decisions you take are meant to add value —to your customers, shareholders and employees. In order for this added value to benefit your bottom line, it must be clearly understood and accepted by the stakeholders. For it to reach them and be understood, it must be clearly communicated. Actions often backfire not because they were bad decisions, but because they were badly conveyed or poorly understood. Get your Communications Director in the board room early enough to benefit from synergy.
Hiring people who are interested rather than people who are qualified
Communication involves creativity, and many people get attracted towards it because of the allure of working in a creative field as opposed to other departments that seem mundane in comparison. Therefore, a lot of people can be found interested in moving to this department. On top of that, this field has a low entry barrier—It is not difficult for people to write decent text or to start a Facebook page. Even launching a website has become relatively easy these days. The low entry barrier coupled with people’s interest results in people who take up this work and even make a good start. I have known of Marketing Managers who want to move to corporate communications because they now want to ‘take it easy’! No wonder then, many of them often fail to rise above the average.
Your communications officer has to be able to think technically and strategically, analyse data, talk to the techies, and have the knack of working with creative professionals. As far as personality traits are concerned, for best results, look for people who take it seriously and are ready to dedicate their careers to this work.
Confusing communication skills with writing skills
Agreed, good communications is virtually impossible without good writing. But good writing does not always equate good communications. The work of communications also includes visuals and interactive elements, and extends to taking your content to the right audience at the right time through the right channel, measuring response and evaluating the change as a result of it.
A person whose main skill is writing may be good at capturing abstract concepts into words, but unless they are genuinely interested in connecting with people and ensuring people get to know what they need to know and when they need to know, they will fail as a communicator.
Aligning Corporate Communications ONLY with HR and Marketing
One of the main aims of internal communications is employee engagement and in this sense, closely related with HR. Its association with Marketing department also comes naturally, because there can be an overlap between marketing communications and internal communications. What many companies miss is the alignment of communications with operations, among others.
Communications can play a vital role in improving efficiency of processes through effective flow of information within and between departments. The Operations department therefore can benefit tremendously by keeping Communications department in the loop of their thinking.
It is also important for it to be in touch with the IT department touch because all communication relies on technology. Any decision about changes in the IT infrastructure that may impact say, the intranet or the email backbone should be run past the communications department.
Even as Indians worldwide were over the moon on the success of Slumdog Millionaire (2008) at the box-office and the Oscars, there were voices loud and strong criticising the movie for exploiting and exaggerating its poverty. (Example) A movie shot in India featuring some of our favourite Bollywood actors is fine, but hey, what made them think they can show the dismal living conditions of slums in that movie!
The criticism of Coldplay’s video of their latest number Hymn for the Weekend, rings the same bells. They may not be criticised for glamourising poverty but are being condemned for cultural appropriation.
What the critics forget in their rage is that this is just a video – imagined by someone to be a play of colours of India. It may be an exaggeration, but so what? It is not a documentary. It is not a news story. It is not a feature film based on true events. It is just a creative expression. Why can’t we just let it be?
At least they had the sense to use Devanagari script, which is ignored by the media in its own motherland is in favour of Roman script. Why can’t we appreciate it for that? Why can’t we appreciate their creative power to seek colours and happiness in parts of Mumbai which many of the vocally critical patriots will find too uncool to step in.
This is in sharp contrast to the video by Danish State Television which on the face of it mocks its own country and people, but has generated a huge positive response from its citizens.
Why? Because just a few seconds into the video you will know that it is a tongue-in-cheek introspective video that is aimed at minimizing the flak the country has received for the controversial migrant assets bill. It takes a matured sense of humour to take it.
Its not that we Indians don’t laugh at ourselves or can’t look at ourselves critically. We are just overly sensitive when it is done by Western media. This is seen equally in positive stories whether it is our Bollywood beauty Priyanka Chopra making it big in Hollywood, or our Prime Minister Modi’s coverage in foreign media.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly fine for Indian movies to stereotype Western countries and for Indian celebrities to wear western dresses and speak accented English. But just don’t show us the side of our country we want to avoid, ok?
Measuring the impact of their work is one of the biggest challenges of Communications practitioners. I have seen people in the highest positions of corporate communications falter at the question of measuring the impact of their work. While measurement and evaluation of communications is a long topic for discussion, here is something that might help as universally accepted framework for measuring the performance of your work. As the heading suggests, these points go by the name of The Seven Barcelona Principles.
1. Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and Public Relations
2. Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs
3. The effect on organizational performance can and should be measured where possible
4. Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods
5. AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalents) are not the value of communication
6. Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels
7. Measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent and valid
Why are these principles useful and relevant?
– These principles can be applied to the larger communication function of any organization, government, company or brand globally. Because measurement, evaluation and goal-setting should be holistic across media and paid, earned, owned and shared channels.
– The Principle encompass the role of qualitative methods, recognizing that the use of qualitative methods (along with quantitative) should be used as appropriate. Advocacy as an outcome can, and should, be measured. Qualitative measures are often needed in order to explain the reason behind the quantitative outcomes.
– Communications impact more than just business results; rather communications can impact the overall performance of an organization. To do this, organizations must have, and practitioners must understand, integrated marketing and communication models. The PR channel does not exist in a silo, nor should PR measures.
– The Principles are a reminder to practitioners that to be truly objective, the focus needs to be on measuring performance, and avoid making assumptions that results will always be positive or successful.
– Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) measure the cost of media space or time and do not measure the value of PR or communication, media content, earned media, etc.
– The Principles recognize that social media measurement tools have evolved to a point where there is greater potential for consistent measurement on engagement, along with quantity and quality.
– In the spirit of integrity, honesty and openness, the Principles include specific guidance in an effort to ensure quantitative methods are reliable and replicable and qualitative methods are trustworthy.
The Principles were first launched in 2010; the updated version was launched in September 2015 by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) in London.[Photo By Mattia Felice Palermo [CC BY-SA 3.0 es (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/es/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons]
Today I came across a new term to describe the present state of the world we inhabit: VUCA. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. And suddenly I see this terms popping up in many places. So readers, if you want to sound like you are with it, in your presentations that have to do with the state of the world, instead of long rants, just throw in this jargon and let the others figure it out.