Moving Beyond Communicators’ Comfort Zone

Howard Sholkin
Howard Sholkin

It’s an increasingly complex landscapes for a marketing communication professional to navigate. What is common is that communicators must learn to work well behind the borders of their department. Here’s how:

Connect with revenue producers:

At a basic level, communicators’ success is determined to a significant degree by the success of the revenue producers. If sales colleagues are successful, the support service groups, including marketing and communication, get paid. I have found sales people to be a great source of news material and insights into clients and competitors.

They understand how what I can do for their customers can lead to enhanced relationships with their clients, such as:

  • Content for news releases
  • PR references
  • Case studies
  • Award nominations
  • Speaking engagements

It takes time and it is a hit-and-miss proposition to find publicity oriented clients, but they are very rewarding when they sign on.

In essence, particularly in service businesses, your clients become your products.

The power of persuasion:

The importance of relationships across an organization cannot be underestimated. Therefore, the first steps are taken in one’s own department. The obvious first one is your manager and his boss but, like a pebble thrown in a pond, relationships must ripple out from that department leadership. Corporate groups must use the power of collaboration and persuasion because they often times have responsibilities without authority.

Where are your marketing and communication peers and their leaders:

As a corporate resource in many of my eight technology- related companies I developed relationships with my influencer colleagues and learned what was important to them. How could what I do help their businesses and departments?

During this discovery process I make sure to understand the roles of my communication peers and learn how we can work together.

At IDG Communications I established our Communication Council with representatives from a half dozen business units.

Each month for several years via cold calls we shared information and discussed how we might cooperate. In a decentralized, fiercely independent culture, these discussions helped set the tone for how corporate (my department) would work with and support my peers.

The intersection of external and internal communications:

Whether it’s new products or services, awards or honors, reorganizations and personnel changes, colleagues should be in the loop and not learn about major announcements from outside the company.

A focal point for internal information and collaboration is senior HR colleagues. The volatile nature of business today requires a trusting relationship in order to plan for communication around reorganizations and cutbacks, for example.

However, it is not just difficult news that requires collaboration. I have worked with HR colleagues to submit information for several media brands, including the Boston Business Journal’s “Best Places” to work feature, The Boston Globe and Fortune.

At IDG, a small group of communicators delivers news inside the company via an intranet and digital weekly newsletter.

Throughout the year I write stories and/or take pictures for IDG’s World Update. These stories publicize how marketing and communication programs are raising the profile of the company and its employees.

The financial gatekeepers:

The oil that keeps any business running is finance. Get to know your colleagues who set budgets and pay the bills. In these slow-growth times, with the ROI possibilities of digital programs, finance colleagues will have heightened interest in what you are doing.

As the PR profession becomes as much science as art, the ways to illustrate how marketing and communication influence prospects and generate leads have never been greater. Make the case and keep making it.

Ironically, all the communication accomplishments gained outside an organization may not be as important as what you do inside it.

Use your collaboration, communication and relationship building skills to construct a solid foundation on which to build your career success. PRN


Howard Sholkin is director, communications and marketing programs at IDG Global Solutions.

Follow Howard on Twitter: @hsholkin.