When communications isn't always the solution

For many who have worked in Corporate Communications, particularly in the public sector, there is often a back to front process of being told what is needed first.

A solution usually comes in the form of an idea from someone who has no comms experience but needs a leaflet, or maybe a social media post or blog or something. So someone is providing the solution (sometimes helpful) but without actually looking at the problem properly in the first place (not particularly helpful).

Unfortunately, the comms team are usually the department that has to please internal stakeholders and nine times out of ten will say yes for fear of upsetting people, particularly when rank is pulled, priorities are ever-shifting and the words 'but we've got some external funding' come up. 

Now is the time to learn to say no without worry about making the wrong decision or upsetting someone. A good team chooses their work wisely and offers alternatives when it would be hard to say no. Sometimes, it probably isn't even a comms job.

Creative people often get carried away with being exactly that. They have ideas, they see concepts, they get on with it and get excited. This is a good thing, but better to do a few things well than many things badly. Sometimes it's ego getting in the way or even letting go of control when it should never have come your way in the first place or simply that it's hard to admit that it should never have even got past briefing, let alone to signing off on those 50,000 A5 leaflets ready to be thrown from a tall building in the town centre (or stored in boxes in the back of a cupboard).

I once had a comms role in an airport where bag theft was on the rise. There was money to spend on a campaign, there was a desperate need to bring down the crime and it had to happen quickly. The problem was, due to the nature of airports, we were unable to post leaflets, put up posters, stick things to other things or generally tell people there was crime happening. It was before social media, so that wasn't an option. 

It had me stumped for a while. Then I began asking questions rather than looking up some dodgy clip art, signing off on a leaflet for the printers, priming officers to be 'extra vigilant' and sending a press release into the ether. 

  • Where were the bags being stolen from? The hooks of luggage trolleys.
  • When were they being stolen? Very early morning at check in - people were excited and distracted by their holiday plans. 
  • What could we do?

Take away the place where people put their bags. The hooks on the trolleys were taken off and bag theft dropped dramatically. Budget saved, reputation restored. Not a single word was written on a piece of paper and no trees were harmed in the exercise. 

Sometimes, thinking creatively in a different way can save time, effort, money and face. Keep it simple, get rid of it, then move on to the projects that will really get you noticed for your comms expertise.

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