As consultants, it is important to find the right balance when working with a new client on complex communications issues. The balance between ‘getting it done’ the way the client thinks it should be done and giving a professional opinion that may be in conflict with previously held beliefs may be tricky.
For example, many of our corporate and association clients have always produced a printed newsletter. Newsletters, as a rule of thumb, are a predictable way to communicate progress in an organization on a consistent basis. Once the ink is dried on the contract, the CEO in larger businesses will transition our contact to the public relations person from the organization. These professionals will share the fact that huge amounts of their time are consumed by producing a monthly or (gasp) weekly printed document. Not to mention the enormous organizational costs of postage and printing. In some cases, we’ve seen hard costs equal a highly paid manager. You know what comes next? You guessed it. No one in the organization reads the thing.
Don’t get me wrong, sharing information on a regular basis is important. A couple of suggestions for organizations coming into this world where blogs rule, YouTubing is an action and whistleblowers are waiting for any sign of wrongdoing from management, is to question the intent. Ask yourself – and the CEO – what the end goal is? Perhaps you can accomplish it while saving money.
Convert your newsletter to an online edition. It’s simpler to produce (you can even use Microsoft Publisher to make it look like the old newsletter the CEO loves to get). All your readers are tossing the printed version after reading – if they read it. Lose the ego. Your newsletter is not ever going to hold value like the 1902 National Geographic your grandparents are saving.
Distribute the writing to each department. Spend your time editing and finding where the good stories are. Rather than write one feature story on Jane in marketing with her new campaign that has increased sales, ask ‘Jane’ to write 50 words or less about what she has implemented (or at least give you bullet points). Same with ‘Steve’ in accounting. If you are lucky, the CEO who loves getting the newsletter may even take his hand at writing something every now and then.
Start a blog. If you are like me, then your writing has become technical and perhaps even rusty. Start a blog about your industry and your role within that industry. Receive permission from your boss first and be careful about divulging company information that isn’t for public consumption. Stay away from gossip and innuendo. Plus, it’s kind of fun.