Working in internal communications can be frantic. Hectic. You can be expected to wear many hats and juggle many projects. But this can result in your work being sub-standard, not to mention that you'll be exhausted.
There are deliberate, intentional moves you can make to become a strategic communicator, instead of a reactive communicator.
One of these moves is to stop accepting random requests for content creation, and to start helping your stakeholders to identify their communications objective instead.
Here's a practical example of how you can get started.
Consider this familiar scenario: Dave in HR asks you to make a poster for a new initiative he's implementing. He's created the programme, got it approved and now he's come to you at the last minute demanding a poster. Of course, he wants it yesterday.
If you instinctively say yes to Dave's request, then STOP.
If you immediately jump to any of these questions, then STOP:
❌ When do you need the poster?
❌ What colour were you thinking of?
❌ Have you got a design in mind?
Park the poster for now. Don't jump right to tactics without understanding the communications objective.
Try asking Dave these questions:
✔ What are you trying to achieve with this poster?
✔ Who is your audience?
✔ What do you want them to think, feel or do differently as a result of this communication?
✔ How will you know if the communication was successful?
Be prepared for Dave from HR not to have the answers for any of these questions. That's normal - don't panic! Stakeholders often have no idea of what their communications objective is or how to measure impact.
That's where you come in, as their expert advisor and strategic communicator.
Talk Dave through it. Act as his advisor and coach - not as his personal content creator. For example:
If Dave wants people to behave differently, for example, then what is the specific behaviour he wants to change? He may need your help thinking this through and coming up with a crystal clear answer.
How will he know if people have changed that behaviour or not, has he got a way to measure that?
Talk to Dave about his audience - does he know who his audience is? If so, what do we know about them... do we know what channels will reach them effectively, do we have two-way channels in place for them so they can give feedback or ideas, do we know what is likely to motivate them?
And the money shot - is Dave clear on how this work is aligned to his HR strategy, or even to the overall business strategy? Can he articulate why this is important to the business, and why people should care about this?
You'd be amazed at how much time you'll save by investing an hour into a conversation like this. Usually, the stakeholder (Dave, in this example) will realise that a poster won't achieve what they want at all... and often they realise they need to do the work themselves, instead of you. They might need to hold townhall meetings or brief their team managers or have a conversation with leaders. All of which Dave can do without you!
The value you bring is to keep the focus on the strategic objective, and not just executing on tactics.
To become a strategic communicator and trusted advisor, don’t waste your time executing on tactics that don’t have a clear objective or purpose. Spend the time having productive conversations first; identify the communications objective and figure out how & why it's important to the business.
Operating in this way will help you move from a very busy, firefighting communications producer into a trusted, sought-after communications advisor.