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A Communication Director's Guide to Getting What You Want

Let's face it: sometimes it's tough getting what you want in life.

If you're involved in any sort of communications role at your organization, you know the challenges of getting the things you need to be successful. Resources, staff, time, buy-in from senior leadership; these things all have a way of alluding the communications department.

Communications positions are typically the most misunderstood roles within an organization. The irony, of course, is that they're usually the most important. Most folks look at Communications Directors/staff and ask (silently or aloud):

Just what is it that you do, anyway?

If that's you, and you're wondering what to do about, we've created a simple list that will get you what you want.

While we don't want to set up an adversarial relationship between the communications department and leadership, we do want to play it smart.

Realizing the WIIFM ("what's in it for me?") principle will take you farther, faster. People want to know, at a base level, how their lives (or deparment/organization/legacy, etc.) will be bettered by the ideas you're suggesting. Accept that this is a basic fact of life and use it to your advantage.

The Practical Guide to Getting What You Want

Here's the communicator's guide to getting what you want:

1. Find out what your leadership team cares about. This is the most important, and number one, step for a reason. You need to know what your senior leadership team cares about before you do anything else. This step serves two purposes: 1.) It makes you intentionally invest in listening to the cares and concerns of those who are leading you, and 2.) You will learn "what's in it for them." Whether it's increased donor dollars, more traffic to the website, brand awareness, or increase in attendance, you need to know what makes leadership tick.

2. Tie your goals into theirs. After you find out what they care about, you need to leverage it. It might feel like manipulation, but it's not. You're being smart. You're coming up with a strategy to get what both you and your leadership team wants. Take whatever it is that you're wanting, be it a staff person, a bigger budget, signage, software, etc., and piggyback it onto their goals. For instance, let's say you want to have someone come on staff to concentrate on social media. You could say something like, "If we have this position, we can use our social networks to increase attendance. Here's how..." You've taken something you care about (more staff) and melded it with something they care about (more people in the seats). If you succeed, they succeed. It must be done this way.

3. Ask for an "experiment" period. Once you make the pitch for melded goals, ask for an experimental phase. Say something like, "Give me three months to do ____ and if it doesn't work, we can go back to the way that it was." Of course, it won't go back to the way it was because you will succeed. But they don't need to know that right now. All leadership needs to hear is, "This isn't permanent." If you've successfully tied your goals together, they're going to get what they want and ask you to keep the experiment going. Win-win.

4. Demonstrate ROI. Lastly, you need to ruthlessly focus on ROI, or "return on investment." Benchmark where you were before the "experiment", show the progress you made during, and then show where you ended up. Think tangible numbers. Real results. In the above scenario, show how many people attended weekly before, during, and after you brought on someone to focus on social media. Sky's the limit. You get the idea. Demonstrate you're a success–even if you have to get creative–and you'll shine. Plus, if the experiment fails and you can't show ROI, you need to refocus and think of something new anyway.

How Will You Use This Information?

This is a practical, real-world process that I've used over and over to move forward with projects. It worked for me and it'll work for you, too.

Don't be afraid to push the envelope a bit and be more aggressive than you have been in the past. The "experiment clause" is your chance to do something you normally wouldn't do. Have fun!

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