Tell Me … What Do You Do?

My family and friends often ask me “what do you do all day”? Not that they question if I go to work but more so because they don’t understand what a business communicator does. Business communicators can be writers, strategists, content managers, public relations specialists, marketers or people with skills in each of these areas.

However, unlike, doctors or nurses or plumbers or teachers, there really is no clear definition of what communications professionals do. And television or movie characters don’t help because they just show glamourous people doing something in an office or running around town after a high-powered executive or someone that is just a “fixer” for corporate issues.

Here’s a quick look at how to answer the “What do you do?” question:

1. We are storytellers. Whether it’s for a customer, a reporter, an investor or an employee, we are the craftsman (and woman) building the message, framing the story. We’re the masters of engagement … and wordsmithing.

2. We see the big picture and help leaders see it too. In many situations, communicators have their fingers on the pulse of the organization, industry and community. We know what is working well and what isn’t. We guide the conversations to support the company and leadership mission.

3. We are idea generators and problem solvers. Doing the same things over and over is not only the definition of insanity; it is also boring. Communicators need to find the balance between traditional activities and breaking through the clutter that inundates the industry, the investors and employees. Innovation is critical but so is finding the solution to a multitude of things from bad press to unhappy customers to negative employee morale.

4. We are relationship builders, negotiators and peacemakers. A good healthy dose of emotional intelligence is a good personality characteristic for business communicators. We’re often in the position to influence – the media, the conversation, the direction of an employee program – but that means we must build relationships, understand a wide-range of personalities and how to mediate.

5. We are multitaskers. With more companies looking to do more with less, communications teams are often small which results in a great deal of work done by a few people. The work consists of planning, strategy, writing, editing, coordinating with vendors, reporting on what we’ve accomplished and even ordering food for meetings or making sure microphones work at events.

How do you describe what you do? Do you have insights or ideas about what business communicators do – or should do? Share your thoughts here.

Eight Business Lessons from TV’s Scandal

ABC’s long running drama Scandal ended its seven-season run in April. While a fictional television show focused on the White House and highlighting the tumultuous day-to-day Washington, D.C. dynamics, the show’s storylines and characters can teach us a few things about business especially branding and communications. Here’s how:

1. Always begin with the end in mind. Whether it was Olivia Pope or Cyrus Bean or Jake Ballard making the moves, there was always a plan even when it seemed like there wasn’t a plan. Every action was thought out and well executed. Plans matter.

2. Remain in control. There is always a solution even when you think you hit a brick wall. Take a moment. Then fix the problem or jump at the opportunity.

3. What you say and do matters … and people are listening and watching. Don’t wait for a leak for your messages or actions to trickle out to unintended audiences. Everything you say and do must support your business goals, ethics and mission.

4. Look the part. Brand – whether it’s yours or the company for which you work – is determined by every action you take. Olivia Pope was the brand from the white hat to the specific, dramatic walk, to the large purses and fashionable clothes. In your business, everything from your employees to your advertising and marketing materials tell a story about you. What do you want it to be?

5. Your team is everything. One of the quotes from the final episodes of Scandal that was repeated on social media was “… over the cliff” as each of Olivia Pope’s OPA team agreed to stand by her no matter the legal ramifications. It was a sign of trust, friendship and loyalty. Treating employees well – in word and actions – will generate respect. They might not go “over the cliff” for you but they will support you.

6. Trust/Honesty/Transparency. In the last episodes of Scandal, every character paid the price for their bad decisions. However, the underlying theme that redeemed them in the eyes of the audience was the final decision to tell the truth. Don’t wait until you’re in a pickle to rely on honesty – use it with every audience you have. Transparency is essential.

7. Leaders lead. People wanted to work with Olivia Pope because she got things done. She was influential. She had a presence. She had confidence. She knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to make it happen. Find your voice and step up.

8. Be passionate. This is not about office romance, but rather about truly believing in something – a cause, a person, a product – and doing everything you can to support and grow it. The characters on Scandal had a variety of topics they were passionate about often demonstrated through dramatic monologues or long silences or radical actions. You want to make others feel the way you do and have them follow or support you in your efforts. Simple actions make big impacts.

Click “leave a comment” so we can talk about how these characteristics can be part of your business communications efforts or to share this post with your network.