I worked in an organization that valued my input and strategic guidance in ALL employee communication being delivered internally. How did I get this mythical power to influence others in the organization? I worked for it. I worked hard for it.
I spent years building and establishing the trust and respect of my peers as a communication expert, so they valued my partnership and sought my help in creating campaigns that allowed them to achieve their goals and the goals of the organization.
In a world where people are empowered to communicate 24/7 on a much larger stage than just our internal newsfeed, email newsletter, or employee intranet, we need to work hard to build cross-functional relationships in which our colleagues not only allow us to communicate on their behalf but want us to. And it starts with not just formatting a piece of already written or produced communication, but seeking the goals and finding out the who, what, when, and why.
To be most effective, start with why — yes, just like Simon (Sinek) says. Instead of just taking orders, ask the business partner “why is this message important?” Ask this question even if the answer seems obvious. Once you have the why from the stakeholder, ask “what do you expect recipients of this message to think, do, or feel after they read it?” You may get a confused look from the stakeholder, but this is when you get to show your strategic side. Explain that when you know what the expected outcome is, you can determine the timing, the tone, channel of delivery, and target audience of the message. You can ensure the message is delivered to the right people at the right time to make the biggest impact.
Once you have the attention of the business partner, begin scheduling a regularly cadenced meeting (I recommend monthly) to talk about future campaigns and how you will support their department goals. As you bring more stakeholders into this proactive strategic approach to partnership, you may want to combine meetings, freeing up your time to focus on your strategy and content. You will also uncover a side benefit for your business partners: insight into all that is happening in your organization, which opens more doors to cross-functional collaboration.
At the end of the day, everyone in your organization should have aligned goals — the KPIs set forth by leadership and to which all projects should ladder to. Instead of being the bottleneck in the employee communication funnel, controlling just the flow of communication, be at the top of the funnel determining what, when, how, and to whom messages are sent. When you work strategically with business partners, you set all employees up to achieve the desired outcomes of the organization.
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