Written by: Priya Bates, ABC, MC, CMP, President, Inner Strength Communication Inc.
“Communication professionals want more respect and have been talking about getting their rightful seat at the (decision-making) table for most of my career. Over 20 years as an Internal Communication professional, I’ve learned that you don’t automatically get the seat, you have to earn it.
And here’s the thing. You can’t earn it by continuing to deliver tactical programs that don’t have impact on your organization’s goals and priorities.
When I recently delivered Implementation to Impact: Move from writer-for-hire to strategic communicator, an online workshop through IABC Academy, I asked participants to map what they were working on today on an Impact Matrix (image below). If the majority of projects fell on the left side of the matrix, they were probably perceived as a tactical resource. On the right side, they were probably seen as business strategists and partners.
Based on the questions I was asked and conversations I have with communication professionals globally, what’s clear is that we want to work on high impact projects but many are spending the majority of their time on tactics that don’t matter.
Let’s be honest. Many of us have to deliver the tactics as part of our job, but let’s make sure that the ones we are focused on have an impact on the business goals important to the organizations for which we are communicating.
Here’s how to use the matrix: -List all the projects/programs you are working on. With each item, identify the cost of delivering that program (time and $$) and the impact of the program on your organization’s strategic plan/priorities.
Low Impact Programs
Low Impact/Low Cost – These are communications that are easy to deliver and don’t take a lot of your time. Think email messages, presentations, meetings that are simply intended to check a box for the company or an executive. They are nice-to-haves not need-to-haves. I identify these as a waste of time. If we can say “”No”” to some of these projects, we may be able to open up time for programs that are more meaningful. We also can help reduce noise so that employees can be more productive.
Low Impact/High Cost – These include technology or programs we’ve invested in that are not being used to their full potential. Over time, some of these high cost programs are also at risk of ending up on the cutting room floor. Communicators should ensure they have as few of these programs in their portfolio as possible. Think about the annual company conference that has turned into a social event instead of a strategy kick off or the newsletter that no-one reads. If leaders see these programs as a waste of money, don’t be surprised to see budgets drop and resources questioned.
With low impact programs, work on either deleting these programs from your portfolio or moving the programs into the high impact space by tweaking them to help deliver meaningful results.
High Impact Programs
High Impact/Low Cost – These are the programs that don’t cost much but are so meaningful to our employees. What are those programs that your leaders and employees cannot do without? A feedback program, fact sheets provided to managers during change efforts, the regular town hall? Some of these programs may have once been a big company investment that is now in maintenance mode like the intranet that is used by employees to navigate their digital workspace. When you’re planning your efforts, ensure you identify the programs that you manage that help create awareness, understanding and action among your employees. These regular elements on your communication infrastructure also help build trust.
High Impact/High Cost – These programs are the two or three things that you plan to invest in each year. It could be a revamp to the intranet, a new recognition or social platform, the a launch of a new strategy or values program, or communication support during a large transformation. With all programs, but especially this quadrant, it’s important you articulate business goals, communication objectives and measure results.
Once you understand where your projects fall, decide where you would like to make changes. Use it to have conversations with leaders and bosses on what you are working on and where you would like to support the organization in order to help it succeed.
What’s always worked for me, when training an organization to see me as a strategic versus tactical resource, is finding the leaders in your organization who simply get it and own critical projects that could benefit from your support.
As you start to add more projects to the right side of the Impact Matrix, don’t be surprised if you’re invited to ‘the table’ more often. Good luck!
If you’re a Communication Professional who would like to be more strategic or an HR professional or business leader who wants your communication team to deliver more strategically, we’d be happy to help.
At Inner Strength Communication, we create powerful employee engagement, branding and training programs that help you deliver business results from the inside out. Priya Bates, ABC, MC, CMP is an award-winning, accredited and certified communication professional who has worked with complex organizations like Loblaw Companies Limited, Hewlett-Packard Canada and Compaq Canada with tremendous success.