The Big Rethink for Communicators Ready for Real Change

assumptionsYou could feel the tension rising in the air, knocking out the aroma of coffee beans and herbal tea. Nancy had ordered a decaf-caf skim latte and the barista seemingly got it wrong. She stormed back to the counter and told the staff in no uncertain terms that her coffee order was wrong. The customer standing next to her interjected, “I think that was my drink. I’m a Nancy, too.” Nancy apologized to both Nancy and the barista, and the barista apologized to both Nancys for not adding another initial to the Nancy cups, since there were two of them at 8:35 on this particular Thursday morning a few weeks ago.

All was corrected in the world of the morning coffee commuter rush. Granted, in the scheme of our lives this is not a big deal. It does, however, illustrate a truth we run into every day, sometimes multiple times a day: we are experts at making assumptions. Nancy assumed she was the only Nancy at that time. The barista assumed each Nancy would know which cup was hers. I even assumed that the angry Nancy was out of line when in fact she could have a food allergy or could not consume caffeine.

Back at the office, how many assumptions would you find you were tied to at work if you were to take the time to question your own business activities and strategic thinking? I realize you don’t have the answer yet because you are still reading my blog and we all know you can’t multitask (that we can is a commonly held assumption).

It is time rethink your communications approach. To get you started on the Big Rethink, I’ve started a list of 7 assumptions to turn upside down:

  1. The metrics you are using to measure your comms are most likely not the right metrics: take another look at your key performance indicators and think twice about the value of likes and followers, about the inputs, outputs and outcomes that matter. Are vanity metrics getting in the way of real progress? Rethink measurement.
  1. Your success as a communicator is less about your ability to preserve your brand’s reputation with stakeholders and more about your active role in building and nurturing an authentic brand. Don’t be on the sidelines – dive in the middle of the pool and veer out of your lane every now and then. The C-suite welcomes you. Rethink your role as a communicator.
  1. Your ability to create a narrative about your company and tell great stories is inextricably linked to your understanding of the characters, theme, plot and ending. You can’t tell a great story without understanding the characters and their motivations, and without knowing how the story should end. Rethink how informed you are.
  1. Journalists want the truth first and foremost. They are less interested in being wined and dined and receiving tchotchkes and more interested in getting access to the facts and the voices that will make their stories stand out. Rethink your media relations approach.
  1. Communicators should not confuse listening to customers with customer service. You need to act on what you hear even if you don’t like what’s being said. Actively listen, then act. Rethink your listening strategy.
  1. Employees are powerful stakeholders who have the ability to polish or tarnish your company’s reputation at the speed of a tweet. If you are not engaging all employees and making them part of your PR strategy then you are putting your whole organization at risk. Rethink internal communications.
  1. Diversity is not inclusion. Beyond hiring people of different races, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and opinion, we need to include them in real decision-making at our organizations. Rethink how inclusive you and your organization are.

The Big Rethink is hard work. By unlearning some of the communications rules of yesterday, by trying new things and being open to different ways of thinking about the people around you, you will create a powerful wave of newfound respect and appreciation for the hard work of communicators like you worldwide.

Or am I assuming too much?

— Diane Schwartz

@dianeschwartz