Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Zillion Tiny Holes

It's been a hard day in the world of corporate communication. But when isn't it? It's not hard like curing cancer. It’s hard like being the bull when the picador gets going. A zillion tiny holes in your hide might drive you crazy.Let me share a few pokes and prods with you.

Last year I was at a seminar for employee communicators, and I heard some of the most hair-raising things. I sat next to a guy who runs the intranet for a major insurance company. (You would absolutely have heard of them.) He told me his management suddenly came up with the bright idea that he shouldn't publish more than two stories per day on their intranet site. Why two, I wondered? Because the workers, who were mostly help-desk agents, weren't supposed to be reading, said his management.

Well, I suppose that makes some sense (although it's not entirely clear why they would have an intranet in the first place if they were serious about enforcing a no-reading rule). But let’s get real. People sit at terminals and surf, or even read print. It's a fact. Wouldn't it be better if they were reading company news? Something that might improve their performance? Or at least shore up morale?Turns out the guy who ran the intranet made the same arguments to no avail. Then, he asked why two? Why not three stories or one story? What was magic about two stories, no more, no less?His management — who had, I assume, hired him for his expertise — had no answer. Two just sounded good to them.

Here it is again. If you can type, or even if you can't, you know as much or more than the people you hire as communicators. Because really, how hard is it to be the comms person? It's not like many of us in communications have technical or management degrees. Isn't it just typing and then choosing some cool clip art? I can just hear them thinking now, "Hey, even my secretary can do that." So why hire us in the first place?

Because deep down, they must know that it's a little more involved than it looks. It's not like this crap just writes and publishes itself. Someone actually has to do it.And it's fun to screw around with brochures and press releases and newsletters, especially when you're not ultimately responsible.

Real work is hard, so let's write a brochure about what we do. Let's hold a brainstorming session. Then we can have the comms person type up our great thoughts, and if he/she gets them wrong (as so often happens when such self-proclaimed great thinkers see what they said translated into text), we’ll just have the comms person rewrite ’til they get it right (read: incomprehensible and full of important-sounding jargon). It's the corporate equivalent of masturbation. It doesn't produce anything, but it sure feels good.

It's time for a revolution (although realistically, I know it can never happen). I'm sick to the teeth of everyone knowing better than I do how to do my job. I would pay good money to see a single person in my company publish even one credible, publishable thing, whether it be brochure, newsletter article, or press release. (And let's not even go down the path of their proposal responses, which are downright unintelligible.)

So corporate communicators of the word — UNITE. Even if it's only here on my little rant.


Blogger Don Ball Carbajal said...

Sorry, I'm dyslexic so I untied. Hope I didn't hurt the cause.

Your complaint is the very reason I'm glad to be working in online stuff. At least in that realm, we can point to stuff like usability and server logs to bolster our arguments for why things should be one way or another. You should start doing more stuff online or by email. That way you can point to click statistics and tell the evil overlords that you have proof that nobody wants to read their shit.


2:37 PM  
Blogger re:becca said...

yeah. I hear you. Working on an enewsletter to hit that mark. The big guys want a print marketing brochure. Hate it. Hate the process. the pain.

2:51 PM  

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