Back to square one?

Chalk hopscotch drawn on ground
Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash
With #lockdown2 about to start in England tomorrow, it’s hard not to feel that we’re right back where we started earlier this year. Personally and professionally, I’ve heard a lot of heart-sinking, sighing and here-we-go-again-ing.

Many communications teams and individuals are gathering themselves and setting to work once again for their colleagues.

  • Finding the best messages to support wellbeing and show direction.
  • Producing the channels that their people rely on for information.
  • Listening to their colleagues’ voices in these ongoing difficult times.

  • An optimist at heart
    I’m mostly an optimist by nature, always wanting to look for the positive. That doesn’t mean I’m not realistic about a situation, but I do like to see the points of hope, however small they might feel. And I believe that these comms professionals are not back to square one.

    It has been an incredibly difficult year. But it’s also been a year of innovation, resilience and demonstrating the value of our comms work. Here are 3 areas that I think have progressed during this year.

    Many leaders who didn’t ‘get’ communication now see why it matters.
    Lockdowns and home-working, in particular, have demonstrated the need for clear, effective communication. It is more important than ever that everyone involved with an organisation understands what is happening and why. To do that, comms teams have been writing messages, setting up channels and planning for ‘what next’.

    The challenge now is to show that communication matters at all times, not just in times of crisis. To make the most of the all the hard work so far, comms teams need to keep talking to their leaders and explicitly demonstrating how their work contributes to business success measures. One thing we know for sure is that there are very difficult times ahead and organisations need to move through those times together.

    Communication infrastructure has developed and improved.
    This isn’t true for all organisations, sadly. But many have been able to take some time this year to look at ‘how’ they communicate and decide what works and what doesn’t. There is no longer the time (or money) to spend on methods for communication that don’t actually achieve anything. That no-one reads. That no-one listens to.

    With an urgency to make things work first time, comms teams have had to focus on what is really working and ignore everything else. As well as existing methods, it has proved necessary to be more innovative and use ways of communicating that were previously dismissed.

    The challenge now is to keep measuring the channels and ensure they continue to be effective. No-one should be having a conversation in 12-18 months time that starts ‘do you remember that thing we used to communicate during covid?’

    Big topics have been discussed and long-needed conversations have begun.
    From Black Lives Matter to climate change and mental health issues, there have been a lot of really important areas this year. Communications teams have been central to enabling those conversations at work, from posing the questions to reflecting colleagues’ reality to leaders and enabling peer to peer discussion.

    The challenge now is for communications teams to play their part in keeping these conversations going. To make sure that this doesn’t remain at the level of just talking and that we see change and actions happening as a result.

    Things you’ve achieved
    So we are not back to square one, even though it might feel like it. On those difficult days when you feel like you’re wading through treacle, it’s great to find 5 minutes to think about the things you’ve done, as well as the tasks ahead of you.

    What are you proud of achieving this year? I would love to hear about your communication successes, so do get in touch and let me know what you’re pleased to have done.

    Until next time

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