5 Reasons Why All Organizations Need Communications Staff
For years, it seemed communications staff struggled to justify our existence. Then COVID hit. Many organizations were forced to up their game on how they communicate with clients, stakeholders, staff and the public. And like many professions, this increase demand has resulted in a shortage of skilled communications and public relations professionals.
While I hope the lessons of the importance of clear and concise communications that were learned through the pandemic continue, here’s a reminder why all organizations need communications support. Whether this is salaried staff or consultants, depends on the organization.
1. Works horizontally not in silos
This is probably the biggest reason to have communications staff – we don’t operate in a silo. Even as a consultant, I work with various staff and departments in organizations I support. It allows me to see common communications challenges, duplicated work and opportunities to improve communications flow and output at all levels.
It’s amazing how many times a department or service area thinks the challenge is unique to them. Yet, I can quickly connect the dots on how making improvements in one area can be applied to others.
2. Looks at bigger picture
Communicators ask a lot of questions. Who is this impacting? What difference does it make in people’s lives? Is there a problem that needs solving? What need is it filling? Why should people care?
Our questions go beyond simply what information do you want to share and with whom. We need to first understand the big picture before we can look at how to communicate.
In my experience, we often uncover issues and help identify potential solutions through our inquiries.
A few years ago, I was involved in a meeting regarding ticket scalping at a major sports event. I was initially brought in to write a press release warning people not to buy tickets from non-official sources.
Sure, I could write it, but I knew it wouldn’t make a difference.
So, I started asking questions. Why is this an issue? Why are we warning people now when this has been going on forever? What is the true problem? These were just a few of my annoying questions.
It turns out this is a sold-out game and a well-known high-tech scalper had been spotted selling fake tickets that look like the real deal. Meaning there’s a good chance any tickets sold by scalpers wouldn’t give you entrance to the game.
As the organizer was answering my questions, the conversation expanded to areas beyond the press release. One staff member identified security issues and another flagged crowd control challenges. Ultimately more issues were avoided by looking at the bigger picture.
At the end of the meeting, I went from being told to write a press release that would have no impact, to being able to pitch a human-interest story to the media.
The result – a story explaining the complexity of ticket scalping with new technology, how to not be scammed and miss out on the game. The story got huge pickup and the scalper in question cut their losses and relocated to another event.
3. Specialized skill set
It’s a lot of work to simplify a message and be clear in your communications. It’s much easier to dump information, technical terms, and jargon on people.
Communicating clearly is a skill very few people have. Engineers, planners, accountants, lawyers and other professionals didn’t go to school to learn how to communicate using a variety of communications tools. Just like I didn’t go to school to learn how to do my taxes. This is why I have an accountant and the organizations I work with hire me to support their communications.
4. Keeps up with the trends
Gone are the days of organizations creating social media accounts and websites then slapping on content. You need to understand social media algorithms, accessibility requirements, search engine optimization, user reading levels and more, to engage with your audience.
And honestly, besides communications staff, who has time to keep up with all the trends? Even I find the change dizzying at times.
While I’m not a social media specialist, I have a strong understanding of how to go beyond likes to real engagement. I also know how to integrate social media into the communications thread of the project. It needs to be connected to the bigger picture while owning its own space.
5. Key team member
Finally, we all know stories about what happens when an organization communicates poorly, or not at all. While it can take years to develop a reputation, it can take minutes for it to be destroyed.
This is a risk not worth taking.
While it may be tempting to hand over the controls of your social media to a 20-year-old because they know how to post on Facebook, let your engineers write public messaging or have an administrative professional do communications off the side of their desk, it often doesn’t turn out well.
Just like you wouldn’t wait to hire an accountant to organize your books until you get audited, don’t wait until another global pandemic or a crisis hits to invest in getting the communications support your organization needs. Hire the best, invest in your people and get the outside help you need to ensure you’re communicating to the right audience, using the right tools, at the right time.
All organizations need communications support.