Leadership is not only about managing your team but also representing your team.
If the decision makers don’t know how your team is contributing to the success of the organisation as a whole, then you are letting your team down. In the long term you might be jeopardizing their, and in turn your own existence.
If your staff are introvert but genius, then you have to compensate, by making sure that people are actually aware that it is your department that is creating x sales or y percentage of turnover. Never assume that people know what you are up to and what your strengths are, make your team matter.
How you communicate what your team actually does, is key to letting stakeholders know that your department is an integral part of the organisation. Make sure that your team is valued and supported, whether that be with finance or other resources. It is not enough to tell other employees and other managers once, using the standard format.
Instead, you have to communicate in a way that adds impact, credibility and trust.
Think outside the box and remember,
pictures speak a thousand words.
Internally it is quite possible that another department has no idea what you ‘guys’ do and some might question your very existence. If you have a company newsletter or intranet (possibly both), then make sure that your department is featured in it – regularly.
This is a matter of priorities – not time.
Schedule in these tasks well in advance of their editorial deadlines. Leave enough time to research, write, proofread and create graphics. Ensure that you sing the praises of your team with photos, names and achievements. Tell the rest of the organisation what great progress and discoveries you are making, this inspires colleagues to want to be part of such a great team. Soft talent poaching if you like 😉
Dealing with the Press
Externally, you will probably have to work with marketing and PR but don’t let that freak you out! Sure they might be a little pedantic about the brand’s logos and corporate identity, these are as important to them as your code or project is to you. The corporate brand is their baby, they can be a little over-protective but for all of the right reasons. In terms of public relations, make sure that you have been on some decent media training before you speak to the press and read about how to manage the media professionally. Once you start it is actually easier than you think.
Take a proactive approach to working with the press. No need to be nervous or suspicious, just be yourself. Start by establishing rapport with the industry reporters, take them for lunch, get to know each other. Help them to deepen their understanding of the industry, give them insights as to which trends they can expect and why. Journalists will be interested in what could have an impact on the sector, whether there are any political implications for the key players, quality control concerns affecting the customers and what the weaknesses and threats are that could hinder your success but of course also the opportunities and strengths that you have over your competitors, no need to reveal too much but certainly let the reporters know when to expect a new release, so that they can schedule your news. Try to resist saying ‘No comment’. I know that you hear that a lot in the media and if you are feeling pressured or stressed out by too much questionning sometimes you will have to be assertive about not saying anything more about that. But when you are not in a press conference situation it is more appropriate to say
“I cannot say anything more about that just yet, I am sure that you can appreciate my situation”
If it seems wordy, just practice it, time and time again. Why not put a post it note on the bathroom mirror and practice saying it in your head as you clean your teeth, so that it becomes natural and rolls off the tongue?
Always remember thought to differentiate between your personal opinions and those of your organisation and what is on and off the record. Professionals will respect that because having experts to consult and being able to have someone to provide them with a genuine understanding of the sector provides these writers with a clear competitive advantage.
Respect the fact that journalists are under extreme time pressure, if you say that you will get back to them, do so as soon as you possibly can. If they leave a message, call them back and if you are going to be in meetings until lunchtime, do them the courtesy of telling them that, a two liner email goes a long way when you are depending on someone. If you bend over backwards for them, then when things go pear shaped or there is bad news or even rumours, you can depend on your press contacts to involve you in their coverage. If you don’t work with the press however, they tend to ask someone else, probably your competitors.
Journalists are required to critically interrogate what they see and what they are told. So they do ask a lot of questions. It is easy to take this personally, but keep calm. Instead, remember that they are not questioning your integrity, rather they are trying to get the full picture. They need to be independent and it is their job and duty to the public to be able to criticise and expose where necessary. Those questions allow them to see the information from different perspectives to see if something doesn’t add up.
It takes time to build up a relationship with the press. Let them get to know you, then in time they will start to like you more and feel comfortable with you and as you share your knowledge and experience you will notice that they will begin to respect you and in no time at all it will be them calling you as much as you call them.
Ideally you should be meeting with journalists once a month, following them on Twitter and be linked with them on Xing or Linked in. If you like an article that they write – tell them. There is no need to butter them up or lay it on thick, but a little praise goes a long way. Don’t we all appreciate a compliment from time to time? Finally don’t forget to share your appreciation with a retweet/share.
There is nothing scary about the press. Our fears of the media are predominatly based on our experiences of the paparazzi, but in industry, it is a lot more serious and that is why your approach to the media also needs to be consistent, authentic, honest and open.
There is a saying in the UK “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Clearly to some extent this is true, but to be honest, journalists in particular, certainly do not have the time or inclination to spend time with people that know very little or are reluctant to share their knowledge. Your ability to explain something complex without sounding condescending or clever is a sure sign that you know your stuff.
So be mindful of using too much jargon or abbreviations, back up what you are saying with examples and give them plenty of opportunity to clarify or ask those pesky questions.
The day a journalist calls you to take part in an interview, or even to give an opinion, you know that you will have established yourself as an expert. Congratulations! So you see, good things come to those that talk – not bad for something that started out as a leadership responsibility to your team is it?