Re-imagining the role of an in-house communicator!

For an organisation, ‘stakeholders’ (be it employees, consumers, investors, regulatory bodies or academics) are key. Communicating honestly, accurately and in a timely manner helps eliminate mixed-messages, rumors and even inaccurate narratives and fake news. Effective communications is a foundation for well-informed, engaged and more supportive set of stakeholders. 

In a fast-evolving business environment with multiple external stimuli impacting business performance, and with multiple disruptive modes of communications and platforms for data consumption by the stakeholders, the operative scope of an in-house communications professional has favorably amplified. Today, as an outcome, corporate communicators significantly impact multiple levers – corporate reputation, employee engagement and retention, crisis mitigation, sales, product brands, stock price, stakeholder engagement and many more. 

With the advent of technology, higher scrutiny by stakeholders, and a completely new digitally savvy generation of employees entering the game, it is but natural that the communicators should be prepared to don new ‘avatars’ to manage the effectiveness of their communications. 

The first avatar that comes to my mind is that of an Aligner; Aligner of communications strategy with organisational objectives!

I think communicators should not be creative for creativity’s sake – the propensity, generally is to jump into design and content creation without understanding the “WHY” of it. It will be necessary for the communicators to delve deeper in understanding the business nuances.  An alignment with the business and communication goals with appropriate measures will ensure the efficacy of the communication and garner the much needed support and buy-in from the leadership! 

The second avatar is that of a Leadership communications coach!

Leadership commitment to communicate consistently is fundamental for a communication function to deliver. With time becoming a matter of luxury for most of the leader’s across organisations, communicators need to facilitate the leadership communication process. Ability to pick up organisational pulse and create appropriate messaging for the leadership is vital. Using the language of efficacy and business impact (read profitability, reputation, increase in sales, stock price, footfalls, etc.) rather than a language of efficiency (read coverage, number of media in a press conference, picture on cover, etc.) would be essential to win time with the management!

I guess, the third avatar would be that of a big picture painter or the story teller!

Someone needs to tell the correct organisational story. I feel, engaged employees are the best story tellers, they are the real brand ambassadors and in this age of mobile cameras where technology has never been cheaper to use, employees can be made to share stories electronically. Well captured series of employee testimonials can do wonders in the employer branding space! Authenticity is key in current times and genuine story telling will take us a long way.

Tech evangelist or Social media Guru is the fourth avatar! 

The world of communications is evolving at a frightening speed.  Predicting what might happen next can be a futile exercise, but if recent trends are anything to go by, the future of communications is wedded to digital.  The industry is in need of communication bravehearts who can customise content in a conversational fashion, start producing podcasts, share corporate information through blogs and become the organisational tweeters. Leader’s today need a lot of help with new media and it is the in house communicators who can guide them to be comfortable with these platforms. But first, they should master it themselves. It is a pity when just 5 out of about 100 communicators raised their hand at a conference when I asked them, how many of you are ‘really’ active on twitter or are micro influencers. Then you say my CEO is averse to social media!!

Being an Involvement Idol is the fifth avatar that I can think of!

Involvement and inclusivity are critical in a world of user generated content! Your stakeholder segments should be allowed to be a part of the communications process. Face to face communication with the leadership and modes that make stakeholders feel involved scores over traditional one way modes like posters and videos. An in-house communicator can be a strategic enabler of platforms where two way communications thrives. In an era where owning the organisational narrative is indispensable, creating your owned media platforms that brings multiple stakeholders together to cross-pollinate ideas is a great solution. I have personally experienced how owned media properties at Godrej – Vikhroli Cucina (for the food space), L’Affaire (Lifestyle space), www.DesignDekko.com (Designers space) and the Future of Series (Thought leadership platform) have delivered towards building the aura of the Godrej Masterbrand.

In an organisational context, there is no dearth of opportunities for in-house communicators. However, demonstrating their value would only ensure that there is a consistent buy-in by the leadership team and a constant encouragement to keep experimenting and innovating in that space. The onus is on the communicators to keep track of the organisational pulse and constantly think – Can we chip in?

Well, as the great George Bernard Shaw wrote, and I quote, “The problem with communication…is the illusion that it has been accomplished….”

I guess, we are always communicating; it is just a matter of how well or effectively!

Sujit M Patil, ABC on FacebookSujit M Patil, ABC on LinkedinSujit M Patil, ABC on Twitter
Sujit M Patil, ABC
Sujit is responsible for building and sustaining Godrej group’s reputation across stakeholders. An IABC accredited business communicator and a three time winner of the IABC International Gold Quill award, he has been listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today and featured on the PR Week Global Power Book.

In 2018, Sujit was listed on the Holmes Report’s Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals. A speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the WCF Davos, AMEC, PR Newsweek Asia, Public Affairs Asia etc., Sujit is a part of the prestigious Arthur W Page Society.

He volunteers as a guest faculty at various B-Schools, is a weekend farmer, loves travelling, understanding cultures and experimenting with new cuisines.

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