Posted by: Kristen Ridley | July 7, 2011

Behind the curtain, or in the spotlight?

hidingThere hasn’t been a new post in a while, and – in case there’s anyone left out there still dropping by who cares – that’s because I recently started a new job, after six months of job-hunting. Getting back into the swing of being employed full-time has been a re-adjustment and there hasn’t been much in the way of free time as I have acclimated back into the working world and learned about my new company and what is – for me – a different kind of role.

My new job will be largely creating client-focused communications, whereas much of my career so far has involved employee communications, with a smattering of external, crisis, and financial communications thrown into the mix at various points. Client communications is a brave new world for me.

Another reason there haven’t been any new posts, is that because of the nature of my new work, I will not be able to talk about most of what I’m doing, because it is confidential. So, I’ve been trying to figure out whether I can continue with the blog, and, if I can, what I will post about. Because I still love communications, and I especially love TALKING and WRITING about communications, and I’ve grown quite attached to my tiny, obscure bit of the “inter-web” where I get to be Empress of my domain!

So, I’m going to think about parts of the work that I CAN write about without breaking any confidentiality requirements, and that may mean less frequent posts, but I’m committed to continuing with what the original intent was – to start some interesting conversations about communications.

And, luckily, today offered an experience that has nothing to do with my client’s communications or their account at all, but it reminded me of something I’ve often ruminated about in relation to the work I do, and I figure it’s nice safe ground, so here we go!

There’s a great quote from U.S. President Harry S. Truman: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I’ve always been partial to that quote, because I think it captures the basic essence of the communicator’s world – or at least, what I believe the communicator’s world should be.

I don’t think a communicator should be front and centre. I’ve always believed that the most successful communicators – at least in the corporate settings where I’ve spent the majority of my career, are also the most invisible to everyone except the people they directly work with and/or write for.

I love it when I hear the end-users, or the audience the messages were directed to, say things like: “Wow, the CEO TOTALLY gets it! He really understands our challenges and what we deal with everyday. I think we’re going in the right direction if what he’s saying is an indication of the company’s strategy.” Because even if I wrote most or all of what the CEO released, if I’ve done my job well and thoroughly then I captured the CEO’s true voice, and I gave form to what she WOULD have written if she were a writer, and what he is TRYING to say when I interview him about our new strategy, or whatever we’re talking about.

Sometimes the communicator ends up in front of the company or the clients, or whoever for any of a variety of reasons. I have had some experience with that too, and, while I don’t know that I would intentionally choose that place in the glaring spot-light of “front-and-centre” I have become more comfortable with the location as I have become a more seasoned communicator.

I’ve learned that while my natural inclination is to be the invisible woman and deliver fabulous, thoughtful, targeted and responsive messaging for whoever my client happens to be from the peace and serenity of my messy, disorganized, snack-laden cubicle, where nobody need see – or judge – the fact that I do my best work on a chocolate and coffee-fueled mania while slouching in a completely non-ergonomic posture, sometimes, I have to sit up straight, put on some lipstick and present the polished, calm and professional communications counsellor I know is in there somewhere. In fact, my new job is already offering up lots of opportunities to develop that aspect of my communicator multiple-personality.

What about you? Do you prefer to tuck yourself away in a quiet corner like the Wizard of Oz, proclaiming: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!!” while you deliver sensational communications without having to ever put on a tie or a suit? Or, do you enjoy being in a spotlight and having people know that you are – to some extent – the person who helps the CEO, the Director of Marketing, or whoever, deliver such great communications?

Discuss amongst yourselves!

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