What if internal communicators thought like marketers?

Years ago I served two years of my career in marketing, and l didn’t like it one bit. I lived in a sea of numbers, managing a small P&L. Nearly every week we presented multi-page PowerPoint slides on how we would increase revenue and what we were doing to mitigate losses. What on earth was a former internal communicator doing here? I didn’t fit; I was Oscar in a room full of Felix’s. Fortunately, I was blessed with a patient and supportive boss, who educated me on the marketing process and tried to get me to understand a balance sheet. He even helped me navigate my career back into communications. The gift of that challenging experience was the value of a marketing mindset in my communications world. Since then, I’ve often asked my fellow communicators how we’d operate differently if we reframed employee communication like this: We are no longer internal communicators. Instead, we are marketing experts asking our employee/consumer base for their support and discretionary effort. What would we change? Research employees’ thoughts, habits and affinities before we communicated. Would a marketing team ever launch a multi-million dollar advertising campaign without talking to consumers first? Of course not. But how often do communicators send out information without conducting internal audits? In this new mindset, we’d pay attention to what employees say they want and what they could care less about. And we wouldn’t send any message without baseline research. Dig (and dig into) data. Recent studies show that more than 60% of internal communicators are still not measuring. That’s at once amazing and bewildering, considering how much there...

Why I left a dream job

I didn’t just have a good job; I had a great job, the stuff of every employee’s dreams: Energizing, smart boss? Check. Growing company? Check. A team I loved working with? Work I cared about? International travel opportunities? Check, check, check. So why in heaven would I leave? Last year one of my mentors asked me a question: “What are you saying with your life?” I posted that question on my bulletin board at work, so I would keep it top of mind. I answered it every day with the same actions: working long hours, recovering on the weekends, rarely seeing cherished friends or family. It wasn’t the company’s fault; it was mine. Fueling the introspection, my 85-year-old mother was living in a foster home on the opposite coast, battling the final stages of Parkinson’s disease. Dementia was creeping in, and she obsessively needed to tell every family story to her most adoring audiences in her final years. So I asked myself another tough question: If my mom passed today, would I say I was a good daughter, even a good listener? It was time for a change – and not just a small one. So I quit the great job I had. Friends, family and colleagues told me I was either crazy, courageous or both. I was scared as hell, but I knew it was the right decision. On my final day in the office, I sent an email about why I was leaving.  The subject line:  “And Then …” I explained it was time for me to go and listen to my mother’s stories.  Three months later, in...