When I had just graduated from college, I thought that working for a big multinational was the dream. That’s where the most glamorous jobs were, the best opportunities to be creative and produce amazing campaigns that get results… right?
Since then, I’ve worked with SMEs, government departments and, yes, multinationals. Larger Corporate Communications teams probably do have the best opportunities, but they also run the risk of being change averse, being home to added bureaucracy, killer levels of compliance and cutting levels of internal politics. Here are some of the mistakes I’ve seen repeatedly in theses types of offices, and how to fix them.
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Writing for the Board instead of the press
The single most important rule of writing is to write for your audience. Most Corporate Communications teams know this and still don’t do it. You know in your heart that nobody cares about senior appointments at your company. Unless your new CIO has an incredible back story, his or her appointment does not warrant a press release… But your Board thinks it’s a huge deal. Do you have the guts to break the news to them? You should, because if you don’t explain that it’s not newsworthy to them now, you’ll be explaining why nobody published the press release up later on.
The fix: Announce the news on your company blog, and amplify it on social media. Make it as colourful as possible. Don’t just tell the world how many years of experience your new hire has; give them a flavour of their personality, and what they bring to the team beyond technical skills
Allowing intra-departmental teams to compete instead of collaborating
Larger companies usually have different teams within their Corporate Communications department like Digital, PR, Events, Marketing or Advertising. Although each team is ultimately building toward the same goals, they compete for budget, head count, and other resources. The more intense this competition is, the less likely teams are to work together. This results in duplication of work and all kinds of other inefficiencies.
The fix: Encourage teams to come together regularly to exchange ideas and create integrated campaigns. Reinforce the idea that each platform supports the others. A big event can only gain from support by the PR and Digital teams. An advertising campaign can have dramatically better results if supported by the Social Media team. Give recognition to team members who encourage collaboration.
Outsourcing work instead of giving the in-house team resources
Often, for big projects, Corporate Communications managers will okay huge budgets to hire an external agency to help their department achieve important goals. If you’re spending $100,000 per year to keep a PR agency on retainer, would that money be better spent hiring two full-time team members? It can be disheartening for teams who know that they could achieve the same results or better if that money was spent on resourcing the in-house team.
The fix: Trust and value your in-house teams. Ask them for their ideas, and how much of the project is achievable with the skills and talents available in-house. But don’t ask your teams to achieve it with just the budget that is already available to them. Offer them the resources you’re planning to allocate externally.
Being big fat copy cats
Imitation is death to innovation. Keeping an eye on competitors is normal, but creating your entire strategy based around what they are doing shows an alarming lack of faith in the in-house team. Constantly looking backward at what was done last year is another sure-fire way to quench creativity. Fear of change can stifle even the greatest ideas.
The fix: Brainstorm! If something worked out okay last year, people will automatically tend toward doing the same thing again. But that’s so boring and predictable. Get your team in a room and ask them what they would do if there were no rules and no budget constraints. Let ideas come freely and after ten or 15 minutes, bring it back to what’s really achievable now that creativity is flowing.
Failing to comprehend the importance of visuals
Eye-catching images, colourful infographics and video clips capture attention in the kind of way blocks of text simply can’t. according to research, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, but too many companies are ignoring this. Most continue to focus on text-based output because it is what they know. Your target audience probably has six other tabs open, notifications coming through on their phone and a load of washing they need to hang up – you need visuals to capture their attention quickly and get your message across.
The fix: Invest in graphic design, video editors and photographers. If that’s not an option, use websites like Pixabay or Unsplash to find copyright-free images, and use a site like easel.ly to edit them
So… those are my top five corporate communications mistakes; how many are you guilty of? Don’t worry about it if you recognise yourself in some of the above, we all have room to improve. Is there anything in this post that made you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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