Communications Advice after Year One

One of my favorite comic series is Batman: Year One.

We see the origin story of Bruce Wayne slowly developing the character that would become Batman. Along the way, he learns important lessons in his first year that cause him to make changes and shifts in how he Batmans.

This week, I thought I’d share my most Batmanny things with you from my first year as a Communications Director that I have learned. Here they are in no particular order and with no particular applaum.

Be flexible.

Much like a bendy-straw, you’re going to suck a little. Your plans you thought were awesome will sometimes be met with the questions you didn’t think to ask and it can deflate you. Don’t let it. This thing is so much better when you have trusted friends watching your back. Be ready to hear a good idea from places besides your own cake-hole.

Focus on relationships.

You can’t do this alone. You need to understand each leader you will be working with to survive. Otherwise, working with every department will feel like walking through an unmarked minefield every day.

Make room for white space.

White space is when you are at work and you don’t do work for the sole purpose of doing your work better. Leaving time to read your Bible or take a walk or just look through Facebook groups or Pinterest for ideas. Let your brain change gears and work on stuff in the background. You’ll be refreshed when you come back to a project later.

Say No with a Yes wrapped inside

When you say “no,” it should be like an Oreo. That outside is kinda bitter and not so great, but there’s a nice, fluffy “yes” in the middle. No, we can’t put your event in the video announcements, but yes, we can put a poster up in the hallway, send an email about it, and include it in the bulletin. Oh oh oh oh oh…the white stuff.

Invest in yourself and your team

Money spent on stuff fades. Money spent on people comes back to you. Don’t be afraid to request big money for making yourself or your team better at what you do. It not only helps you, but the church in the end too.

Build on quality, not quantity

It’s really tempting to try to get everything you know should be running up and running. But it may not be reasonable. Start with one project and make it great. Get it running smoothly and then build on that. If you can handle 2 or 3 projects at a time, great, but it’s ok if you can only handle 1. Update the website or develop a social strategy for Facebook, or improve your request process. Just don’t try to do all of those things at once unless you and your team can truly handle it. Sometimes you have to slow down to go fast, because if you ain’t first, you’re last.

Navigate change with purpose and care.

Careful with how you talk about the new things you want to do. Many people are still attached to the old things. Hearing you talk about how much you hate the current website might be ok for your team, but there are others on staff that are quite attached to (or had something to do with creating) that current website. Respect the past while advancing to the future with care. Use a scalpel, not a sickle.

Communicate with your boss

It is tempting to keep what you’re doing a secret from your boss. Either you want to have that big reveal moment and say “tada!” where your boss goes “Wow, you’re the best human ever!” or you’re afraid that letting them in on it will only invite micromanagement. Neither are great because you rarely get the “tada” you wanted because your boss probably doesn’t like these kinds of surprises and the micromanager probably doesn’t know he/she is frustrating you. Talk. Your boss may have a great insight you would have never seen to take it to the next level.

Educate your peers

Your staff probably don’t care about the reach of your previous Facebook Ad unless it drastically increased the number of butts in seats. It’s your job to help them see how those things they care about and the things you care about correlate. Take stats to them, share stories of wins, or read this blog for more ideas. You have to enlighten your staff about the impact of what you’re doing. They aren’t magic. They don’t read minds. Seriously, read that blog I linked to.

What did you learn in your first year as a communications director? I’m sure there are things you could add that would help someone else out tremendously! Share them in the comments below or in The Seminary of Hard Knocks Facebook group! Thanks for reading!

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