According to a Towers Watson study, companies with highly effective communicators show an average of 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders.
While communication skills have always been valued, tested in interviews, and sought out by workers in many departments, we now have quantitative evidence to justify this pursuit.
So what features do companies need to cultivate for a successful internal and external communications strategy?
Communications is a Team Effort
Communication is always a team effort — that’s why nobody puts “intrapersonal skills” on their resume.
No one person can drive an entire communications strategy on their own. Each portion of a successful communications strategy requires a person with specialized skills and traits. These people are often associated with specific departments, but the purpose they fill transcends a job title, and you won’t always find them in the most obvious places.
Clearly articulating these roles leads to clarification of strategy, which in turn leads to a more successful implementation. That’s why I’ve identified four roles — or archetypes — each company should think of and look to fill for effective communication.
4 Pieces of the Communications Puzzle
The Messenger is the champion of information. They ensure that all of the organization’s important information on processes, regulations and new initiatives remain accurate and in the hands of those who need it most. They oversee security and distribution.
Ultimately the Messenger is responsible for managing and clarifying an organization’s official knowledge, as well as regulating how others can do so. Organization, impeccable interpersonal skills, a credible reputation and a direct business relationship with policy makers in an organization are all requirements of this role.
Typically we find Messengers within HR departments, though this isn’t necessarily the case.
The Digital Gatekeeper
Often coming in the form of IT staff, Digital Gatekeepers have some commonalities with Messengers: Both deal with regulation throughout a business, and both are responsible for keeping a vital portion of the communication process up to date and running smoothly.
The difference is that Digital Gatekeepers are responsible for tools, rather than the information itself. They vet, maintain and fix the digital tools without which no one could collaborate or manage knowledge effectively. Even more than Messengers, they must be strict and enforce regulations.
In many ways, Digital Gatekeepers are the backbone of a communications strategy, the unseen infrastructure to keep everything running.
The Conceptualizer is a Big Picture thinker. This person needs to act as liaison between all departments to generate and implement a communications strategy. They see how messaging is taking shape both internally and externally, as well as understanding the implications it will have in relation to areas like culture, priority and timing.
Conceptualizers are often members of a company’s Communications department, so it makes sense that the macro-level strategy of communications is something in which they’re experts. They lend this expertise to all others involved in the process, ensuring that everyone who has a hand in the organization’s messaging and brand is on the same page.
The Foot Soldier
The Foot Soldier is the role that makes everyone else care about the messaging once the other roles have carried out their jobs. Foot Soldiers are usually in the Marketing department. They put the Conceptualizer’s work into tangible form: events, content and copy writing, collateral and social media all fall under their domain.
Articulate, organized and empathetic describe these people, as they have a wide variety of audiences they need to rally. Foot Soldiers are busy bees because they spend their time translating strategy into demand and then demand into potential revenue. Because of that they have great time management skills, along with awareness and agility to adapt a message to many different audiences.
Without the Foot Soldiers, a company’s communications strategy would be nothing more than shouting into the void.
A Concerted Effort
Each of these archetypes has an important job without which communications cannot be fully successful. More importantly though, they know how to work together.
It’s important for each to recognize the role they play and the value that others contribute. As with any team, humility and compromise are just as important as understanding one’s own importance. When each piece of the communications puzzle fits together and works side by side, the company will thrive.
Title image Abigail Keenan