What support Communication Directors need to improve high-level impact

What what support Communication Directors need to improve their high level impact

Notes from round-table discussions held at the Communication Directors’ Forum (Part 3), 8-10 October 2014, Aurora.


Stakeholder mapping

We explored the idea of stakeholder mapping, not just for campaigns but also for your career. Stakeholder mapping is basically just a resource prioritization tool so by thinking about this for your own career, you can think about how you create webs of positive influence.

There are of course many different varieties of stakeholder map: one of my favourites is to map importance on two axes:

  • How important are they to you? Who are the key people who can help you in your job?
  • How important are you to them? Where on their radar screen are you likely to fit?

What type of adviser are you?

One of the big challenges in consulting or business partner relationships is that the ‘buyer’ and the ‘seller’ can sometimes have different ideas of why the partnership exists. We had a great conversation about whether communicators are ‘order-takers’ or advisers.
There are different ways of thinking about this, but – after the session – I was reflecting on the ‘order-taker’ concept and thinking about how we could draw that analogy out to represent different roles in communications:

  • The order-taker is the person who stands behind the counter at the restaurant and does what you ask for. In communications, this is represented by the people who write what leaders tell them to.
  • The waiter. A slightly higher level of skill, but their job is really to facilitate your choice, and give you a bit of guidance if needed. They will ensure you have the right cutlery, keep your glass refilled, and generally make it easier for you play your role as the consumer. In communications, this is represented by communication managers who create toolkits and provide low-level guidance to executives.
  • The chef. Job? Create technical brilliance behind the scenes. These are the intranet managers, social media gurus and deep experts in one particular area. To be successful, they don’t need to meet the customer: they will go away and create a great technical solution to a tricky problem.
  • The Maître d’ or oenologist. This is one the who pulls it all together, acts as advisor on menu choices, is the ring master of the other players and will take time to understand what you are looking for and make it happen. This is the equivalent of the trusted advisor or business partner.

But there is another set of issues, it doesn’t seem to be as simple as working your way up the career ladder from order-taker. The other elements seem to be:

  • What is your customer buying? We may all want to be maître d’, but if the customer walks into the metaphorical fast-food café and wants hamburger, fries and a coke, then dressing up an tuxedo and giving them wine advice is not really appropriate.
  • What are you selling? What is the role and expectations of the communications department in your organization? Are you required to lean more in one direction or another?
  • Where do you personally get your energy? Are there roles that you naturally gravitate to?

The ideal is of course when they are aligned, and in my experience a lot of messy situations are caused by a mismatch of expectations.

There are some simple exercises to help explore these issues and call out a relationship for what it is – and recognise that different roles are needed in different situations.


Stephen WelchThese discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule which states that participants are free to use the information, but that neither the identification of the speaker, nor that of any other participant may be revealed.

Stephen Welch, MCIPR CMRS FRSA, Past-President of IABC UK has participated in the round-table discussions and produced the notes above.


LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/stephenwelch11
Twitter: @stephenwelch11

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