An Inspiring Vision: A Communication Leader’s #1 Tool
Yesterday in part 2 of our Leadership in Communication series we talked about the difference between a communications manager and a communications leader and how critically important it is to become a communications leader.
A big part of being a communications leader is influencing people outside of your official authority. Any decent manager can get the people who report directly to them to do what they want using incentives or threats. But how do you get your boss to say, “yes” to social media? How do you get the board to say, “yes” to funding the new website or search marketing you know your organization needs? How do you recruit volunteers who will help take your communications to the next level?
An Inspiring Vision
If you want to influence the people around you, you need to inspire them with an exciting vision of the future. That inspiring vision needs to have 4 parts.
1. An unacceptable present
Articulate how current communications are holding the organization back. What are the problems? Where are people getting frustrated? What is inefficient, ineffective? Use specific examples.
For example, my church has partnered with several other local churches to serve dinner to homeless people in downtown Clearwater every Saturday. My pastor regularly encourages people to serve there in his sermons, but just a handful or regulars do. Part of the reason is because the location is not mentioned on the website. Another reason is because each week a different church is responsible for the food, but it’s never communicated which week is our church’s turn. A third reason is because there’s no contact person mentioned on the website. As a result, people who have never served the homeless before and have questions or are nervous about showing up not knowing what to do or who will be there, just give up and don’t serve. That is unacceptable!
2. A clear picture of future communications
You need to have a very clear idea of what tools and systems you want to be using in the future. If you think your organization needs a new website, what specifically will the new one do? Have an attractive design the better communications who you are? Facilitate multiple administrators, so people in each department can update their own info? If you want to lead your organization into social media, which social media tools are you going to use? Who is going to use them?
Getting back to my example, a communications person ought to connect with the leader of the homeless ministry and get the website updated with the location dinner is served, the contact person, and more information to help people who have never served before. Then some sort of “system” should be set up so that the website is regularly updated to show the weeks our church is responsible for the food. Maybe a person in the homeless ministry is given access to update the page. Maybe the leader of the homeless ministry sends the schedule to a communications person once a month. Maybe a communications person needs to set up a calendar reminder every month to make sure they’ve gotten that info.
3. A story that includes the person you’re talking to.
To be inspired, people need to see themselves in an inspiring story. Your “vision talk” must be different for each person. When talking to your boss, it needs to tell the story of how better communication will eliminate problems she has or help her accomplish her goals. When talking to the board, it needs to tell the story of how their bold investment in this communications vision will pay off by saving the organization money or increasing revenue. When recruiting a new volunteer, it needs to tell the story of how they are helping to do great things for others.
4. A strong connection between the communications vision and the mission of the organization
Everything in your organization must be aligned to the organization’s mission. Your communications vision should be a means to that end. You’ve got to articulate how your communications vision relates to the overall mission of the organization. SEO, better search rankings and more website visitors are great, but your boss and the board doesn’t care about those things. They don’t care about great looking websites, informative newsletters, or attention grabbing videos either. They care about more visitors in the pews, more children enrolled in the school, more people being served, more sales, or happier clients.
Again getting back to my example, neither our senior pastor nor the leader of our homeless ministry really cares about what’s on the church website. What they care about is that more individuals and small groups are going downtown to serve on Saturdays. They are ministering to the people in need, and at the same time those who are serving are being changed by the experience, becoming more compassionate, generous, and Christ-like.
What do you think?
Do you have an inspiring vision for your organization’s communications? If not, where does your vision need some work?
What advice would you give to communications people who are developing or refining their communications vision?