Seven ways to be ‘relevant’

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) held its world conference in Canada this month and as I was unable to go I’ve been reading as much as I can about what went on across the pond. I think it’s really important to be aware of key trends and new thinking and Twitter has been useful to point me in the right direction to what took place in Toronto.

A couple of sites I’ve come across have highlighted the seven crucial communication roles that were discussed at the conference.  You can read their original posts here and here. Steve Crescenzo,  principal of Crescenzo Communications in the US, cautioned that if communicators don’t take these changes into account, they “run the risk of becoming irrelevant in their organisations”.

A discussion took place looking at the seven ways communicators need to change in order to be relevant five years from now. I’ve paraphrased the info I’ve read below in order to share with my network as it certainly provided me with food for thought. It reminded me of a popular brand of face cream with its seven signs of ageing! Seems like this is a recipe for relevancy rather than wrinkles, but an interesting mix nonetheless.

Information from the IABC discussion on the seven ways communicators need to change in order to be relevant five years from now are below. What do you think? Do you agree with them?

The talent
This is the time for corporate communication to shine. Social media, new media and multimedia are all in need of creative people who can talk and write in a conversational fashion. “We can use our talents to cut through the clutter”, says Crescenzo. The challenge is to step up to the ages old argument that things need to be done the same way they have always been done, and explain to managers that the old way has not worked.

The talent scout
Communication managers need to find people in the organisation who have something to say – either internally or externally. Then, they need to tap into the stories that those people have and find the platform for telling those stories. The big mind shift is for communicators to realise that these people do not, and should not, necessarily be the leaders of the organisation. It needs to be the people. “And yet companies still insist on using traditional communication, like posters, email and intranet”, says Crescenzo. While those have their place, it’s how you strategically manage the content that will determine whether internal communication has any degree of impact.

The big picture painter
“With all the information flying around, someone needs to tell the story of the business. The best way to do it is to use people to tell the story of what the business is doing. Great communicators do not write about policies and programmes, they think about people”, explained Crescenzo.

The community organiser
Conversations are happening whether corporates choose to recognise this or not, and it’s mostly happening in the social media space. Most executives are fearful of corporate communications, without realising that ignoring it simply means they do not know what is being said anyway.

Crescenzo says communicators need to embrace social media tools and work with managers to educate them on the benefits and challenges it poses. When done safely, it can lead to greater awareness and control of overall conversations.

The multimedia story teller
Corporate communications needs to embrace the use of social media and integrate various multimedia elements where employees can contribute content to central repositories and share their stories. “The age of the flip camera is upon is. The technology has never been cheaper to use, and people in fact expected a multimedia web”, says Crescenzo. When presented with the opportunity, “staff respond by creating these really cool videos… it’s happening everywhere, even in the most serious of companies”, he adds.

The social media coach
Organisations’ leaders need a lot of help with social media and new media technologies. Communicators need to figure out what’s right for them and how it would work for them. “We need to find executives in our organisations who would be good at blogging, podcasting and other things… we have to help them. They are stiff and bogged down by corporate jargon… show them how to change that – it can be done”, says Crescenzo.

The creative strategist
Communicators cannot be creative for creativity’s sake – everything communication does should be done to tie back to the objectives of the organisation. Business goals and communication goals need to be aligned, long before message development, and certainly before content is created. “Most communicators fail because they jump straight into creativity and content generation without understand WHY they are communicating”, says Crescenzo.

These are all practical tools that simply require communication practitioners to think differently about what they are doing today. As the paradigms of communication change, so do the methodologies and tools being used by communicators. Crescenzo concludes: “Times are changing, why aren’t we. We cannot be a whiteboard culture anymore. We need to change the internal culture of organisations to better meet consumers’ needs”.

Want to find out more? There are podcasts, vodcasts and more information being uploaded at

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