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Two Bright Tips for your under-performing communications

by Jessica Van Onselen, Managing Director, BrightGuide Africa

Are under-performing communications driving you nuts, but you don’t have the time to sort it out?

This is one of the biggest problems I see in my job, and I have a message for all you leaders and managers out there who oversee communications as part of your job – under-performing comms should not be one of the things stressing you out. There are two immediate actions you can take to tackle this problem and get your project comms from hum-drum to humming.

Often, leaders who are managing a project in the private sector or a programme in the development sector, or even communications for a government department, come to me and say –  “We have a communication function and maybe we have a comms officer – often, a really talented and excited and committed communications officer or manager but it’s just not quite working.”  So for them, somehow it isn’t coming together as effectively as they would like, or the message isn’t clear. Or it’s just not interesting enough – boring comms is a lot more common than you would think. It’s pedestrian. It’s under-performing.

And sometimes, my clients just don’t know where to start. They’re busy. They’re stressed. They don’t always have the language to talk about what the problem is. They often describe it as being quite foggy or murky and they can’t quite…see…what the issue is. Is it the message? Is it the channels? Is it the strategy? WHY isn’t this working? Why isn’t this connecting with my audiences?

The good news is this is easy to address quickly and effectively.

Here are my two bright tips for your under-performing communications:

#1 Conduct a third-party comms assessment – but in an inclusive and collaborative way

The first is what is sometimes called a communications audit. Audit can be a bit of a scary word, personally I prefer the word assessment or review, sounds a bit less aggressive. This is when you get a third party in to come and talk to your team, in an inclusive and collaborative way, to have a look at how comms is hanging together in your programme or your organisation.  I do a lot of this work and I really enjoy it.

So it’s a diagnostic which helps to identify what’s working and what’s not and why, and then, what actions you can take to optimise and improve. Those steps can vary from really small things – you need to increase how often you’re posting on social media from once a week to once a day – to the bigger more strategic picture, depending on your circumstances. But it gets a bit of language and focus around your specific organisational challenges and opportunities in a way that can take away the fog and make it a lot clearer.

A comms assessment is also a really fun opportunity to step back and think creatively and to inject some new ideas into your comms approach. They’re just a really fun exercise, and they often end up involving the whole team and unlocking a lot of potential for comms performance which might be latent or just needs a bit of a spark to ignite. That’s why I really love comms assessments to unlock performance, they are one of the best parts of my job.

#2 Identify – or self-identify – your training needs

The second thing you can do, and I usually propose this AFTER the audit or assessment, is a bit of training. So your team might be amazing at events, but they suck at socials. Or they are brilliant at socials but their messaging is atrocious. Training needs become a lot more clearer after the assessment, and often the teams will self—identify where they need or want training.

So if you’re struggling with comms that are just a bit meh, those are two immediate steps I suggest to get a bit of zing into your project’s or organisation’s communications.


Did you find these Two Bright Tips for your under-performing communications helpful? Need help with a Comms audit for your company? Email [email protected] to start the conversation!