Published: 8 January 2014

The five qualities needed to transform a good comms team into a great one

Leo Reynolds . Creative Commons

“Italian food is all about the ingredients, and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.” Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

Like the finest Italian dishes, the best comms teams stand out for some very simple ingredients. Not technical skills, approach to managing projects or the size of their budgets, but attitude, outlook and culture.

How to become a great comms team:

1. Know your priorities

The best teams are clear about the ‘big picture’: what they’re there to achieve, what their priorities are and whether they’re meeting their objectives. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to lose sight of this when juggling the demands of a 24/7 news cycle, social media and the needs of internal departments.

2. Learn from your successes
Taking time out to reflect on what’s working well can seem like a luxury when life’s busy. We also have a tendency to focus our analytical powers on the problems we see. The best teams are good at building on success and replicating what works. See Dan Heath’s convincing account of why you should focus on ‘bright spots’ during times of change.

3. Work collaboratively

Good communications is intuitive, and often finding the answers to difficult problems depends on collaboration with other departments. Organisations are not well-served when their comms function becomes purely a service department at the beck and call of others, or equally when comms takes on an overly controlling role. Some of the best, most creative activity has been devised by comms and policy colleagues working hand-in-hand.

4. Build trust and understanding

No matter how good you are, without buy-in from the top your team’s influence internally will always be limited. The best teams talk regularly to senior management to ensure they understand what they’re trying to achieve, and to explain what’s needed from them in turn. It’s the informal face-to-face conversations that count as much as the meetings, written strategies and plans.

5. Stay close to your audience

The best teams know who they need to engage with to meet their objectives. Whether it’s through formal research or more informal means, they take the time to understand their audiences.

We can’t all be fine Italian chefs, but it’s helpful to remind ourselves that success in comms is often about simple winning formulas and good working relationships, rather than “fussy” products and “fancy” activity.

Our quick test might help your team take an objective look at the way you work and identify any areas for development. 

www.randallfox.co.uk

Susannah Randall and Selina Fox, directors, RandallFox

RandallFox specialises in helping charities get more impact from their communications spend.