Hot on the heels of the first article from my mystery senior communicator, comes the second glimpse into her working world.
It reveals what can happen if your organisation goes for a professional standard like Best Places To Work, Investors in People or a similar accolade.
Does it sound familiar? Having gone through similar ventures while working in-house as a comms pro it certainly made me smile in recognition of some of the things she describes below.
Flying high in the face of uncertainty… The kite mark
It’s the Senior Management Team (SMT) meeting and the CEO has some news.
‘Well folks,’ they announce in a suspiciously jaunty tone, ‘The Board want to go for this Excellence kite mark. But don’t worry, it really shouldn’t involve too much extra work for you and your teams…’
At which point the Office Manager thumps down the Kite Mark Processes and Guidelines Manual – it’s only marginally larger than the entire contents of the British Library. Simultaneously, a perfect vacuum is created as 15 people in a small, airless room collectively inhale in horror.
‘Oh no… please, Dear God, no….’ someone whimpers, just like that priest in The Exorcist, the one that’s watching the girl’s head spin round.
‘I…I just can’t…’ groans someone else under their breath, but repeatedly.
Elsewhere, deep puffs are heard on an asthma inhaler.
‘The staff are going to lynch us’, you think, possibly out loud, but you can’t be sure.
‘So how are you going to communicate this out then?’ weasels a traitor. And suddenly 15 pairs of eyes swivel, tank turret-like, in your direction.
And a little bit of wee comes out.
Three months later
Fast-forward three months and it’s The Day. The Day The Assessors Came To Town. The stress in the building is so palpable it tastes exactly like the time when – just out of curiosity – you put your tongue to a positive battery terminal.
That’s 90 days of wherever you’ve sat down in a public space there’s been a sudden and immediate evacuation of people – as if they’d all just accidentally up-ended a beaker of sulphuric acid in their laps.
Because despite communicating the daylights out of it, setting sympathetic deadlines, holding workshops and 1-2-1’s, constantly reinforcing how and why it’s so important, you just sense that deep-down they secretly think it’s some cockermamy PR stunt you’ve dreamed up.
A stunt that has caused them to increase their workload by 30%, in order to sweat conkers over 300 new submission documents. Documents explaining – and proving – exactly what they do all day, why, and how efficiently. And if that weren’t pain enough, then be randomly summoned by an executioner to justify it all.
You feel their pain. You feel your pain. Because you know for sure you’ll be on that firing squad list too.
With every sinew of your soul you just want to frogmarch the CEO into a packed room, stand them in a bucket and shout, ’Look, LOOK AT THEM! THEY MADE ME DO IT!’
It’s 4pm and you’re summoned. You’re the last one in.
Throughout the day you’ve watched Directors, Managers and foot soldiers alike come out of that room a husk of their former selves.
‘How did it go?’ you ask, kind of caringly, but mostly reluctantly. ‘Yeah… yeah,OK, fine,’ they’ve replied, suddenly turning away to dab at something in their eye.
You enter and an Easter Island statue appears to be examining your documents – which, due to their (non) expression, might as well be water-marked ‘Another Fine Offering from It’ll-Do Productions!’ with a clown-face logo at the bottom.
Silently they hand you a sheet and you notice they’ve got your job title wrong. They’ve somehow added a function you’ve never given them.
‘Right,’ they begin. ‘About this extra function…?’
‘Umm,’ you say, shifting a little. ‘That’s not actually my job title and it’s not in my job spec. I don’t think we sent you that?’
There’s a pause that lasts roughly as long as it takes for a tectonic plate to shift.
‘Well, it wouldn’t have come from us’ they say finally. The granite edifice cracks to reveal a mouth like a cat’s bum.
‘I think it might have,’ you say tentatively, because you’ve proof-read every one of those 300 documents till your eyeballs bled. You’re certainly more inept than most but you’re pretty sure you wouldn’t get your own job title wrong.
Suddenly they’re littering their check sheet with more crosses than a graveyard.
Your dander goes up. You may be toast, but this is it boys, this is war. You’ll give them Nena’s 99 Red Balloons. And then some. You break into an impassioned speech about your team, the other teams, how hard they work, the unpaid hours, the commitment.
You also throw in a load of advanced digital and metric terms you know they won’t understand. And then some even you don’t understand, just for good measure. In your head Land of Hope and Glory is playing as you orate: THIS IS OUR REALITY! THESE ARE OUR PEOPLE, WE ARE AS ONE!
‘Please,’ they interject wearily, ‘That’s not necessary. But as Head of Comms, I just wanted to tell you you’ve all passed. Comfortably in fact.’
‘Oh,’ you say.
‘But since you mention it, I’d just like to ask about some of those digital terms. I know most of them, but can you just explain the last few in a bit more detail…?’
Post author: Ms Anonymous.
Your name here?
Since publishing the first post from my mystery writer I’ve received various private messages and emails from people identifying with the author and also some disagreeing with them. Want to share your diary or write a guest post?
First published on All Things IC blog 3 March 2015.