By Kristy Dixon
You may have heard the saying that leaders should work themselves out of a job. I believe this phrase also rings true for communicators.
If we enable and teach our colleagues about communications, ultimately organizations would not need a communications function. Realistically that’s not going to happen, but it’s a worthwhile aspiration!
Here are four thoughts on the role of communicators as teachers:
1. Enable your colleagues
A writing style guide is a good resource to start with. What are common words you see written incorrectly? Does your organization have a particular style for some words? Address inconsistencies proactively with a document that’s accessible, brief and updates as the organization evolves.
Share tips linking back to the guide via internal channels so everyone knows the guide exists, and include it in an onboarding to help new employees from day one.
2. Recognize writing history and habits
We all know the audience directs how we deliver messages and some communications require extensive or technical detail. However, how many reports, emails and presentations do you see that are extensively long or rambling?
Many people’s long-winded writing style is a habit developed from academic requirements. Raise your hand if you sweated over making that 5,000 word count back in school? Understanding people’s writing backgrounds helps address habits that may be detracting from effective communications.
3. The perfection spiral
Communications should be the best it can be—no spelling errors, consistent branding, clarity of message etc. However, at times we can all get sucked into what I call the perfection spiral.
Agonizing over colours, images and words over and over can miss timely audience opportunities or stretch limited resources. This is a tricky balance for communications professionals—we need to guide colleagues, leaders and remind ourselves when it’s appropriate to invest heavily in details.
4. Whenever possible, spend time explaining why
Many people’s interactions with a communications team sees their work go into a review cycle and return potentially with no explanation of any changes.
For communicators the editing and/or formatting process can be an opportunity to educate. If you simply make changes without explaining why then you’ll likely need to make the same changes the next time. Including a few comments in tracked changes or a brief call when you return the document can go a long way.
In the words of John Cotton Dana, who dares to teach must never cease to learn. While this blog encourages communicators to teach and enable our colleagues, remember to keep learning yourself through great opportunities like those offered by IABC!
Kristy is a communications specialist with experience across private industry, government, charities and start-ups. She adores the Canadian Rockies, eats Vegemite, and likes to ask, “What if?”