In this very special guest blog, Darren Caveney of comms2point0 outlines his key guidance for those feeling the pressures of increased workload as they propel their communications strategies forward. Read on to learn more about overcoming the strain of internal expectations, and to find out why everyone needs a little CIAO in their comms.
CIAO is an unusual word, isn’t it? Unusual in that it’s used in Italy to say both hello and goodbye. I don’t think we have an equivalent in English, do we? We wouldn’t know if we were coming or going! But what a handy word to have because no matter what time of day or where you are on your journey, CIAO will cover it and start or end a conversation.
As I say, what a handy little word. Because we’re all on different parts of the journey. Sometimes looking forward, sometimes checking back.
But wherever you are on that road, CIAO will serve you well whenever you stop or check-in for a chat.
Which got me thinking that we could do with a little CIAO in our comms.
A tool that helps us both look forward and back, check-in and check out, say hello or wave goodbye.
As we approach late spring, summer holidays, then move towards the latter part of the year what next for comms people and teams? We’re into a new stage of living with COVID and one without many of the restrictions we’ve become used to (for now at least).
It will be slightly different for individual teams across organisations. But I sense from some of my chats with communications teams that there is a build-up of work demand happening right now – a risk that much of the work which didn’t get delivered because of the pandemic will now be expected to be delivered now we have “done COVID comms”. For tired and weary comms teams that represent a potential problem, especially as most will hopefully be grabbing some much-needed summer downtime. Internal expectations could actually ramp up at a time when teams need to step off the gas a little - Hayat Rachi and I discussed this and many other related themes in a recent video interview for Comms Corner - you can watch it here.
To safeguard against this a little, but still give yourself a shot at delivering your best work, there are some key questions to ask yourselves:
- How does your current comms plan look?
- How are you re-grouping after a fairly tumultuous 15 months?
- What next for agreeing on your objectives and priorities?
- Are your comms plan priorities for the second half of 2021 in a good place and you know what you’re planning to deliver?
- Can you deliver all that is being asked of you?
- Do you even know what is being asked of you?
- Is your team’s mental health and wellbeing being considered in the wider mix?
(It’s not a criticism if you don’t have good answers to these questions).
But what it might signify is that it’s time to say CIAO to your comms next steps.
So, what is CIAO?
I pulled it together as a simple acronym and four-step approach to help guide a busy team to look backwards and forwards, to review and to plan. It looks like this:
It’s a good time for you to review yours. When was it written? Is it still fit for purpose? Was it created pre-COVID? During COVID? How does it sit now in line with your organisational priorities and corporate plan? If you haven’t already done so get the comms team together, refresh your comms plan for the second half of 2021 and get your management team to sign off on it in blood. It’ll take a little bit of time and effort but it’s so worth the effort to have a smart comms plan that works for both you and your organisation.
Likewise, it’s timely to review your approach to innovation right now. You’ve likely had 15-months reacting to the pandemic and that can really stifle the chances, time and appetite to innovate. As comms people we’re creatives – we like to try new things, experiment with tools, channels and platforms. I tried hosting a Twitter Spaces chat today for the first time and I learned a lot about them in just 30 minutes. Now I can talk more authoritatively about what Spaces are, how they work, and where they may sit within our comms toolbox. So, it’s important to carve out the time to innovate as it keeps us sharp, aware of emerging opportunities and provides the chance to develop our knowledge, learning and skills. So, as part of refreshing your comms plan also make sure to create the time and space to see where you can innovate and keep your thinking and work fresh.
What’s working or now vs. what is less effective? Again, given the demand and workload pressures over the pandemic PLUS the changing behaviours we’ve seen due to COVID (think the growth of video meetings, solo home-working, podcasts listenership, audio platforms like Clubhouse) do you still know what’s delivering the best outcomes for you? A short, sharp audit of your channels, content and performance could make all the difference in shaping your tactics moving forward. Need a quick way to self-audit your work and outputs? Check out my 5 I’s audit model.
Own your own channels
Hayat and I talked about this in Comms Corner too. Whilst absolutely it’s good to innovate and try new tech and platforms when they come to market, owning our own channels is vital to an organisation. Because history teaches us that new platforms come and go. But our websites, our email channels and our other owned comms channels and assets are here to stay and are completely in our gift. It does worry me that some organisations put so many comms eggs into, say, the Facebook basket. What happens if Facebook (or any other non-owned platform) goes down, displays poor ethics, suffers reputational damage, or has a data breach? No of course I’m not saying don’t use these platforms – we know we should always use the platforms and channels which our research and informed comms plans tells us to use to engage most effectively with our audiences. But is it time to show a little more love for your email subscribers and your website visitors? They’re your channels to own, grow, invest in and get the rewards from. Try to factor this into your refreshed comms plan. An extra five or 10% of your time invested here really can reap rich comms rewards.
Good luck with it all. Keep doing brilliantly work. And keep in touch and let us know how CIAO works out for you.
Darren Caveney is the creator of comms2point0 and owner of specialist consultancy Creative Communicators Ltd. You can say hello on Twitter at @darrencaveney and connect on LinkedIn.
Want to follow Darren's advice and perform a short, sharp audit of your channels, content and performance, or go the whole way and overhaul your comms plan? Get in touch here to find out how React & Share can help.