What makes a good communications team? Why are some communicators in your organisation so well respected? Why is your communications function so highly regarded? Or not, as the case may be.
In an increasingly complex world, the answer is a simple one, repeated for good measure.
Relevance. Relevance. Relevance.
Communications is changing. Not just every year, every month, but daily. New digital platforms are commonplace, traditional channels are being dismissed or protected, and everyone is looking for the golden thread that leads to success.
In your organisation, be it private, public, or third sector, how do you know if your communications and marketing team is relevant to your organisation’s needs? And when was the last time you asked yourself this question? This year, a year ago, three years ago? It’s probably less recent than you think.
So what is relevance? For a start, do you have a well researched communications strategy that contributes to your organisation’s overall strategy? If not, why not, and if you have one has it been reviewed and revised recently?
In an ever-changing world a good strategy is only likely to be relevant for a short time as your organisation evolves and responds to many external challenges, so a good strategy also needs to be a flexible one. Or to use another word, relevant.
Darren Caveney’s excellent post on the need for a good communications strategy spells out why having one is essential. There are few who question this, and if they do they are likely to fail the relevance test.
So once you have a communications strategy, which highlights how communications and marketing will contribute to your organisation’s objectives, do you actually put it into practice successfully?
This may seem an obvious question, but many strategies and their spin-off project and campaign plans cease to be relevant if they just sit on a shelf or in an email folder. Do you monitor performance, and ruthlessly review, amend, or abandon certain elements if they are not working?
Do you question what you and your colleagues are doing, and challenge the status quo even if it makes you unpopular, or do you just carry on doing the same thing regardless? If it’s the latter, then you may be failing the relevance test yourself.
If you are managing a team, or part of one, have you objectively analysed whether or not your team members are the right people? Are their skills and attitudes still relevant to what you are trying to achieve?
This is a difficult thing to do, but in my experience there is still a significant number of communicators clinging on to old habits.
At an event a couple of months ago I listened to some people purring at the achievement of placing some well crafted copy in a local newspaper.
There was no thought as to whether or not the article had made any difference, no evidence to show if anyone had taken any substantive action in response, and no reference to what the original purpose of the article was and how it fitted into any communications objective or strategy.
Instead, it was viewed as a success because they thought it was well written, and because it had appeared in the newspaper. At the risk of sounding mean, this is the triumph of professional vanity over relevance, a hark back to the old days when communications success was meaninglessly measured by column inches.
The point is that these are no longer the people your organisation needs. You need generalists, specialists, and in some cases generalist specialists, who know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and whether or not it is working.
They all need to be skilled, adaptable, looking forward, striving for excellence, and achieving success. And relevant.
If your team, function, and the individuals who communicate on your behalf aren’t relevant, then do something about it. Now.