A communicator’s manifesto for 2014

no_year_in_reviewNo predictions, no year-in-review. Instead, how about a statement of first principles? Can you dig it?

Resolved: Whether in internal communication, PR measurement or strategic communications, we will be fearless, ruled by the right thing to do rather than the facile, easy or merely expedient. Therefore:

  • As the internal experts in communication, we will have facts and data at our disposal to support our strategies and tactics. We will do research, ongoing measurement and evaluation to ensure that our activities are having the desired impact on business results. Because we care most about that, we won’t allow ourselves to be wedded to our tools — social, electronic, print, whatever. Instead, we will do as every other department in our organization must do: be judged by our impact and value. We will measure at the output, communication outcome and business results levels (output, outtake, outcome), and if we don’t know how to do so, we’ll educate ourselves.
  • We will not cede the public relations field to marketing, embracing the credo that while all marketing is communication, not all communication is marketing! Neither shall we use marketing metrics for non-marketing activities out of inertia, expediency or lack of interest. Nor will we by word, deed or omission allow social media to be subsumed solely into the “marketing mix,” advocating instead for a truly strategic approach to the use of social tools as well as all the other tools in our cabinet.
  • We will insist on transparency from our vendors, never settling for “black box” methods. We recognize the unique value our vendors may bring to the table, but we will need to understand how their many miracles in return on investment, value of Facebook likes, financial values in nonfinancial situations, etc., actually work in practice. We will compare notes and seek metrics beyond anecdotes.
  • We will develop SMART objectives — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound — because performance against objectives is the most basic and appreciated mode of measurement for any communicator. It is these objectives — and the process of setting them — that lead us to our strategies and tactics. They give us purpose, drive, ambition and business life, a reason for being.
  • We will embrace the simple fact that we are business people — regardless of industry, specialty or education, we are business people first, using communication skills, tactics and strategies in support of business objectives. We therefore will be more than merely conversant in the language of business; we will employ it when we talk of what we do, who we are and the roles we play in our organizations.

These are weighty responsibilities, my friends. Are you up to the challenge?

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2 Responses to “A communicator’s manifesto for 2014”

  1. Mike Klein says:

    Hi Sean…

    Appreciate what I think is the intent behind this–to demonstrate that 2014 is the year that communicators get serious.

    But I think our challenges stem less from a lack of competence or a lack of bullet-proof measures than from a lack of confidence and strategic awareness.

    Certainly, we need to justify our collective existence and the validity of the work we do. But we can get into the trap of spending too much time and effort validating work that offers limited value, that fulfils objectives which should have been questioned in the first place.

    We don’t just need better answers delivered with more competence, we need better questions, delivered with more confidence.

    Best from Copenhagen,

    Mike Klein

    • Sean says:

      Mike – I’m terribly sorry to have missed your comment! Thank you!

      As you know, I’m a measurement and research guy, and so I will carp about our lack of measurement expertise and even interest. My point in the manifesto is not to advocate measurement for its own sake at all — it’s to restore research and measurement as strategic imperatives in our practice. As I say often, sometimes the only measurement activity we need is to set comms objectives that align to business objectives and measure our attainment of those objectives. The C-suite often accepts the Value of PR/Comms quite readily, without complicated and expensive measurement activities. We are, however, frequently the only department in a company which isn’t held to account — one CEO, cutting our budget yet again, said that because PR impact wasn’t sufficiently quantitative, it was impossible to measure and thus impossible to establish value. Our objectives were too much inside baseball, and not enough tied to business objectives and strategy.