Don’t just talk but understand why

Anybody remember that BT campaign ‘It’s good to talk’? It was a good tagline, but we all know in our lives that it is not just talking that matters – it is what you say, and to whom, and when. This is true in our personal lives, at work and particularly if you are a communications professional.

Anybody remember that BT campaign ‘It’s good to talk’? It was a good tagline, but we all know in our lives that it is not just talking that matters – it is what you say, and to whom, and when. This is true in our personal lives, at work and particularly if you are a communications professional.

And if some of you may have thought, having met too many airheaded PRs, that ‘communications professional’ is an oxymoron, it is time to think again. And to read this piece by Harriet Hindmarsh, vice president of global marketing and communications at AECOM and chair of construction communications organisation IBP.

One of her main points is that you have to know why you are doing whatever it is you are doing. She calls it ‘understanding your business drivers’. She is working for a massive multinational. I tend to work for smaller organisations or small parts of larger ones but I find it very helpful to ask ‘why’. Why do you want me to do this/ do you want to  produce this/ who is it for? Sometimes I find people have little idea so in that case, since they are paying me, I just get on and hope for the best. Harriet obviously gives her bosses a harder time.

She talks about the people that a communicator needs to get close to – to HR and to the finance team. In a small organisation of course it is good to know everybody, but at AECOM it is just not possible. She talks not just about using social media but, again, about understanding why and being able to show your bosses (probably not very interested) just what success means.

She talks about targeting audiences, about communicating with journalists which can be two-way since they may well spend more time with some of her organisation than she does. 

Harriet says, ‘Some people think communications is neither an art nor a science. For me it is a bit of both, there is scientific element to the art of communications.Some people think communications is neither an art nor a science. For me it is a bit of both, there is scientific element to the art of communications.’ On this evidence, she is right.

There is just one unanswered question – when does she sleep? Reading this was exhausting. I’m off for a little lie down.

Ruth Slavid

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