I got thinking this week, with all of the hoopla I make about compensation communication, have I ever talked about the profession with you? You may or may not work with communication professionals regularly. It's been my specialty for over 20 years. Maybe I can help you learn how to partner more effectively with communicators in your organization.
I think it would help to look at what "communication professional" means, because people with that title have all sorts of backgrounds. We are not interchangeable.
At different points in your work, one type of communicator may be more helpful to you than another. Knowing the distinctions between us might also help you avoid the kinds of frustrations that compensation practitioners often talk about when it comes to communications and communicators.
Communication Professionals Have Many Specialities
People come to the profession with all sorts of degrees, and those degrees plus a person's experience teach them to be good at different things.
Public relations is a specialty that addresses the relationships between the organization and their public. People with this specialty understand how to address public opinion, attitudes and issues with people who have no automatic allegiance to the organization. Crisis communications is a subspecialty of PR. These practitioners protect and defend the reputations of organizations and individuals.
Marketing prepares communicators to encourage sales through advertising, branding and promotion. Journalism prepares communicators to investigate and report events, issues and trends to broad audiences without injecting opinion. Plus there are other, less specialized career routes like communications, literature and fine arts.
Growing from Writer to Communicator
All practitioners share one thing. We are trained to be clear, acute writers who can help you put your point across. And, just like you, we acquire more diverse skills as we move up in our careers.
Compensation analysts may eventually acquire insights into executive compensation and benefits. Writers may learn how to market and promote ideas and programs. Marketers may learn how to help build a consistent culture within an organization by applying their understanding of branding methodologies.
Change Starts with Communications
Not all communicators can help you change employee's behaviors and habits. That's where communicators with change management background come in.
Through their training and/or experience, these communicators learn how to apply psychological models and research to plan how to help people relinquish views, thoughts and behaviors (that get in the way of achieving business strategies) and accept replacements. These communicators will work with you to develop not just campaigns but strategies that help transform employees' and managers' resistance or confusion about things like performance measures and ongoing feedback into "the way we do things around here."
Be Realistic about Collaborating with Communicators
Words are powerful. They help us see things differently and understand how things work. But words alone do not shift people's opinions or influence their actions. It takes a certain kind of experience to understand how to achieve the change that compensation involves and make it stick.
Don't just assume your communicators are experienced in achieving organizational change. If they are new to transforming behaviors, realize that your working relationship will need to be far more collaborative than usual.
Take the lead and guide them away from overemphasis on words. Instead of belaboring drafts of emails or intranet features, work together on a strategy that involves building manager skills, maintaining executive visibility and getting employees talking about how their work influences business results.
Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and principal of re:Think Consulting. She has decades of experience teaming up with clients to ensure great Human Resource ideas deliver valuable business results. Margaret brings deep expertise in total rewards communications and change management to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, she was a Principal in Total Rewards Communications and Change Management with Towers Perrin. Margaret is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Pacific Plains Region. She earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.