Calling All Artists, Coaches and Community Organizers: Today's Communicators Need to Be Big-Picture Painters, Social Media Counselors and Online Conversation Starters

Article excerpt

Note: This is the third in a four-part series on the new roles communicators are adopting as the profession changes around us.

Scene: The CEO's office at a midsize company. The CEO and his top communicator are sitting at a desk. The communicator is bringing the CEO up to speed on what she needs from him in the next month. The CEO is reading The Wall Street Journal.

Communicator: Sir, we need to talk about your column in the employee publication. We go to press tomorrow.

CEO: Right.

Communicator: Do you have any ideas for content, sir?

CEO: What?

Communicator: Content. For your column in the employee publication. What would you like me to write about this month?

CEO: Oh, that. Right. Uh when's the last time we did synergy?

Communicator: Last month. And three months before that. I think the employees are a little burned out on synergy.

CEO: What about change?

Communicator: We did that two months ago. And we did diversity just before that. We've also beaten innovation to hell and back.

CEO: Geez, what's left? I tell you what. Let's sneak another synergy column in on them, only this time we'll call it, uh, building cross-functional excellence! I like that. Wordsmith it up, will you?

Communicator sighs.


What's wrong with this picture? Well, everything. First of all, there's a communicator in the C-suite! Somebody call security!

OK, let's assume the communicator is actually supposed to be there. What's really wrong with this picture is that she is playing a tired, outdated role. She's playing the part of the order taker. That's the role in which communicators just churn out words and check things off their to-do lists, rather than offer real counsel to executives.

Communicators who are stuck in the order-taker role will soon find themselves in the unemployment line. Communicators need to get out of that role and start filling some other, very necessary roles in the modern organization.

In the last issue of CW, we talked about seven new roles communicators need to consider moving into as our profession changes around us:

* The Talent

* Talent Scout

* Multimedia Storyteller

* Big-Picture Painter

* Community Organizer

* Social Media Coach

* Creative Strategist

We talked about the first three roles in the last issue. Now let's talk about the next three.

Big-Picture Painter

It used to be easy to find and process information about a company. If you were an employee, you read the employee publication. If you were a reporter, you read the press releases. If you were a shareholder, you read the annual report.

Those days are long gone. Now, along with those channels, companies produce web sites, intranets, blogs, e-mails, podcasts, videos, message boards, tweets, Facebook status updates and more. As a result, information is more fragmented than ever before. With so many people churning out so much information in so many channels, it can be hard for anyone to see the big picture--how everything ties together.

That's where you come in. As a communicator, it's your job to paint that big picture for your audience. This is especially true for employees, who get stuck in their own silos and tend to pay attention only to what's right in front of them.

Your job is to show them (a) what's happening around the company, (b) how what they do matters, (c) the great work their peers are doing and (d) how they fit into the bigger picture.

One way to do that is with a great annual publication. That's what the bio-sciences company Novozymes did. The communicators there produced a 44-page print (yes, print!) publication titled This Is Our Business that took readers through every aspect of the company, giving them a "major overview, from A to Z. …


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