Posted by: Kristen Ridley | November 15, 2010

If communicators used a checklist for work in-take . . .

checklistMy first full-time job was as a secretary in a marketing department. We used a detailed checklist for when the marketing reps wanted us to do work that laid out exactly what they wanted us to do, how, and when. It was regimented but it made sure everyone knew what they had to do, and exactly how the work would be done.

Most of the communicators I know don’t use a checklist or a form for their business partners to request assistance with communications support. But some of the requests we get could certainly fill a book, let alone a check-list with entertaining fodder. On days when I’ve been frustrated with the way the work in-take process ACTUALLY goes, or when I’ve heard laments about the process from communicator friends, I’ve often entertained myself by ruminating about how an in-take form might look if it honestly reflected what we deal with day-to-day.

Here’s how I figure that form would be structured if it existed:

When preparing this communication I would like you to:
□ Do what I asked you to do

□ Do what I MEANT to ask you to do

□ Do what will make me look good no matter how much work it is for you

□ Read my mind

□ Do whatever the hell you like, since I’m going to ignore it anyway . . . unless of course it makes me look good, in which case I’ll take full credit for it

What I need from this communication is:
□ Something that will shut up the employees and make them stop emailing me

□ For you to figure out what I need to say, without any involvement or assistance from me

□ You know . . . whatever . . . like that thing you did for me before . . .

□ Something like the “I have a Dream” speech . . . you can do that by 2 p.m. today, right??

□ . . . sorry, what was I saying??

Once you have a draft ready for review, I’ll:
□ Review it in a timely fashion and get it back to you with helpful, sensible feedback and a thank you for your great work [Hahahahaha! Just kidding!! – this concludes the comic relief portion of our post!]

□ Ignore it until the last possible moment and then shake my head sadly and muse about how disappointed I am that you can’t complete this “one little thing in a reasonable time-frame” when you explain to me that the printers need more than 12 minutes lead time to produce 5,000 copies of a four-colour 10-page newsletter

□ Cover it in grammatically incorrect edits that make no sense, are filled with incomprehsible jargon, and would bore my own mother to death if I showed it to her

□ Pass it on to 14 other people – none of whom know, care, or have any involvement whatsoever in this topic – and ask for “their thoughts” without telling you or giving them any deadline by which to return it. Then I’ll tell you I can’t understand why we’re behind schedule on getting this done

□ Probably just lose it in the quagmire that is my desk, then, despite your 13 reminders that you’re waiting on feedback on the document you sent me, I’ll reprimand you for not providing me with that draft I asked for weeks ago

When the communication is FINALLY approved and ready to go out, I will:
□ Decide that it really needs more work, and ask you to start all over “with a fresh eye”

□ Ask if we can’t get some more pictures included to “make it look nicer. How about some nice Power Point clip art??”

□ Demand that the quote I said [and which, for once actually sounds like something a human might say] and which I approved weeks ago in writing, be re-written “to sound more authoritative” [read: jagonesque and disingenuous!]

□ Decide we don’t really need to do a communication on this after all and cancel it, once you’ve spent 6 weeks, hundreds of hours, and untold amounts of frustration to get the damn thing done

After the communication goes out to the audience I will:
□ Not understand why nobody believes the corporatese in what we said, and be deeply offended when I’m told that the employees are making sarcastic jokes about my communication all over the building

□ Want you to explain why the financial analysts haven’t immediately upgraded our stock price based on our news release [because, of course, the analysts DIDN’T get any OTHER news releases today that all said the same blah blah pap as ours did – Duh!!]

□ Demand that you get the reporters from the NYT and WSJ to write a front-page feature story based on our news release and tell you that “they better say nice things about us” despite the fact that I will THEN tell you that I am far too busy and important to actually SPEAK to any reporters, or even answer their questions filtered through you, in time for them to meet their deadlines. I will then beat you about the head when said articles are not complimentary about us

□ Want detailed metrics and ROI information about the results of the communication on my desk within 24 hours, despite the fact that I didn’t give you any budget to pay for metrics, and wouldn’t allow you to provide the information any metrics-providers would need in order to deliver them. Then I will tell you the communication was a failure since we don’t have “hard numbers” to prove its value to the organization.

So there you have it – what the communications work in-take form would look like if we were being completely honest about the process.

Would you like to add any sections to our work in-take form??? Please feel free.


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