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4 unwritten commandments of the corporate communicator

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Today’s corporate communicator has a legion of responsibilities. Everything from executive communications to media relations to employee communications falls under its umbrella.

Corporate communicators must be good writers. They must be able to hold and lead a meeting. They must have good interpersonal skills. And, they must be able to work well alone–and in a team environment.

We know about all of this because it is well documented. We talk about it a lot in professional organizations like IABC and PRSA. We read about it on blogs and industry publications.

Candy Dish

But, we talk very little about those unwritten laws that govern our profession. Those “commandments”, if you will, that truly enable us to do our work–and do it well.

What am I talking about? I’ve come up with four unwritten “commandments” I believe play a key role for every corporate communicator.

1–Thou shall always keep executive admins happy.

One of a corporate communicator’s most important partners is the chief executive. And the CFO. And SVPs. Also known as “executive row” in many places of employment. These are your go-to spokespeople for the organization, and they are also an important source of information. So, it’s absolutely key you have unfettered (or relatively unfettered) access to these people as much as you can. Enter the administrative assistant. Developing and maintaining open and solid relationships with these people is ESSENTIAL to doing your job well. Why? Because they control the executive’s calendar. Piss them off, and you can forget getting 10 minutes today. Develop a good working relationship with them and they can become one of your most important allies in the organization. When I was working on the corporate side, these were always the first people I sought out. I made time to talk to them about personal matters. I asked them questions about their kids. I got them coffee on occasion. I looked for ways to make their lives easier. And, invariably, it always paid off.

2–Thou shall always keep a full candy dish at your desk.

Wait, what? That’s right, always be the guy/gal with the candy dish at your desk. Why would you do that? Because the candy dish is the new water cooler. Who really has water coolers anymore? That’s a dated concept. A candy dish on the other hand–that’s where you get the gossip of the organization. And, as a corporate communicator, believe me, you want to hear that gossip. You want to hear the chatter going on among employees and managers below the surface, so you know what the REAL issues are around the company. Not just the issues leadership sees. That candy dish is your ticket to those conversations. Some people might scoff at this commandment, but I truly believe in it. Another benefit: It opens up the lines of communication between you and others within the company. After all, who doesn’t love a Twix at 2 pm in the afternoon? That Twix will inevitably turn into a short 5-minute conversation about what’s going on with that employee. And again, that’s the stuff you want to hear about before it starts bubbling up.

3–Thou shall never eat alone–or at your desk.

Somewhere along the line, eating alone at your desk became a badge of honor for PR folks. And, I’m not sure why. As a corporate communicator you NEVER want to eat alone. That lunch hour is just as critical as the rest of your day.  You should spend it grabbing lunch with your boss. Or, a colleague. Or an employee. Nurturing relationships. Learning about what’s going on in a different department. Talking to a colleague in product design to mine for stories for the intranet in the next month. Yep–it’s a working lunch, but it should never be spent alone. And, every once in a while, I suggest grabbing lunch with a colleague or friend OUTSIDE the office. This networking will be invaluable to your development–whether it’s lunch with a former colleague, a friend in another industry, or just someone you’ve always wanted to meet. To be clear, I’m not really saying you have to eat lunch with someone else EVERY day. But start by shooting for a couple days a week and move on from there. After all, think about the executives you support. Do you ever see them eating alone? Probably not. Why? Because they know the value of those relationships across the business. And you should, too.

4–Thou shall take at least 2 trips per year.

I know, you’re scratching your head again. What could I possibly be talking about here? Every corporate communicator should seek to get out of the office at least twice per year. Here’s my thinking. If you work for an org with offices in different locations, get out to one of those locations at least once a year. It pays to get out among employees and see the environment in which you’re communicating with employees. It pays to see the front lines. It just pays to see what it’s like in different offices. All of that will help you formulate strategies and tactics in your planning. Don’t have offices around the country? What about an industry conference? Don’t you want to get smarter about your work? Make the case to management that you need to attend at least one conference per year. And, make sure you come back with ideas and lessons you can share with your team. Lastly, take a freaking vacation! I shouldn’t even really have to say this, but vacation time is essential to healthy employees. Everyone needs a break. Yet, I remember from my time in corporate America, that far too many people were rolling vacation days over each year. Make sure you make time for yourself. Believe me, no one is too important to miss work for a week. No one.

photo credit: Candy Dish via photopin (license)

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4 unwritten commandments of the corporate communicator

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