Whether you’re moving into a comms role – or one of your colleagues is moving across and asking for your insight – knowing what to expect ahead of time can make a big difference.
There are lots of wonderful things about being in communications, but it’s important to temper those with some of the challenges you may experience and how comms differs from other functions you may have been part of during your career.
Below are some tips to help you prepare well and set yourself up for success in your new role.
1. Know your company strategy
As a communicator you’ll need to be able to talk about your company’s strategy in a knowledgeable way and to many different stakeholders. Take the time to do your homework.
2. Greater access to senior leaders
In a communications role, your access and interaction with senior leaders will likely be far greater. Focus on your presence, your presenting skills, and being well-prepared for meetings with leaders.
3. Pace and variety
In the comms function, the speed, variety, and sheer number of issues you’ll be dealing with can feel energising and exciting AND new and uncomfortable. That’s normal! Focus on the one next step you can take, and it will become easier.
4. Receiving criticism
Don’t be surprised if everyone has an opinion about comms and often believe they can do it better. Staying open to feedback is essential, but it’s also important that you develop a high level of resilience around the fact that you can’t please all the people all the time.
5. Variation in senior leaders’ opinion of communications
While some CEOs appreciate the value that great communication can deliver to a business, you should be aware that there are others who think the opposite and can treat comms as a group that, ‘hits send on my emails’ without any strategic input. This makes a difference to your experience in the communications team, as well as providing a challenge to shift the leader’s view.
6. Connecting the dots
As a communicator you’ll have access to a lot more projects, people, and content than most of your colleagues. Using that level of insight to make connections across the business – both in relationships and in messaging / communication projects – will improve the quality of your input and your credibility as a comms lead. Ask any comms pro about ‘connecting the dots’ and they’ll know what you mean.
7. Internal politics
Comms is notorious for internal politics. The level of internal politics and the sign-off process experienced by communication teams is second to none. It’s why it’s so important that you understand your business and stakeholders – it will make navigating tricky situations much easier.
8. Moving from expert to beginner
You may feel more ‘newbie’ than ‘experienced newbie’ when you start out, and this can feel uncomfortable at first. Focus on the new perspectives you bring to communication and know that you may represent an unheard employee voice. Be patient with yourself and give it time – you’ll feel like an expert again in no time!
9. Willingness to share how you feel
Many communicators new in role or new to a company tell themselves they’re the only ones experiencing these challenges – that they must be ‘doing it wrong.’ Share how you feel with colleagues – other communicators will understand and offer support!
If you love a challenge and want to be at the centre of the action, this role just may be perfect for you.
An accredited leadership coach, Justine Williams has more than 20 years of senior communications experience in the US and UK. She brings empathy, insight, and challenge to the coaching relationship with Kademy members.
This article was adapted from part of our training course, An Insider’s Guide to Communication. Whether you’re brand-new to communication or have comms experience and have just joined a new company, there’s a lot to learn. This course gives you the insider scoop on how to exceed expectations and thrive in your new role. Other resources in the course include:
- 10 dos and don’ts when you’re new to a comms team
- Guide to communication roles: Why they’re needed, what’s challenging, and what specific tasks they include
- Creating your 100-day plan