By Arek Gazda
The 2022 IABC World Conference in New York City focused on the future of the communication profession and the skills and experiences communication professionals need to become strategic advisors to leadership.
As people’s ways of getting, understanding and processing information continue to change, our expertise within organizations becomes more prominent. Our skills and future-focused thinking help organizations meet business goals and contribute to society.
Reflecting on the sessions I attended at the conference, here are the five lessons I wanted to share to help you become a trusted strategic advisor to your leadership.
Change the view of your role
We must shift leadership’s perception of the communication profession from a team solely responsible for writing and distributing messages to a trusted advisor focused on strategic storytelling that supports business outcomes.
To do it successfully, we need to know what drives business results. Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of communication at Microsoft, advises being grounded in the reality of the business. We need to understand every aspect of the company and how they all fit together.
As a result, we’ll be more strategic and resourceful to our leaders beyond the technical skills we offer.
Find your voice
Having a good understanding of the business will help us find our voice.
We must listen and insert ourselves when we see a chance to help our leaders ‘walk the talk.’ Our job is to ensure leaders do what they say they would and keep in mind the impact their decision-making has on the company brand.
We need to voice brand reputation risks with the public, employees, stakeholders and investors each time we advise the leadership and recommend all leaders communicate in an aligned way.
Gain confidence and influence
Communicating with confidence is key to influencing and becoming a trusted advisor. We must develop our leadership presence and create an action plan to meet that goal.
According to Kathryn Kneller, founder and lead consultant at Internal Comms Mastery, confidence is an inside job and starts at our core. We must know what we offer and find a way to manifest it by practicing our personal, relational and public presence and learning how we connect with and influence others.
Such awareness will build our confidence and allow us to identify people we need to influence, get their attention and step up in our organizations.
Activate thought leadership
We live in a complex environment, and leaders look up to us to do and say the right thing at the right time. We are asked to give helpful advice, simplify complex information and influence others to take action.
Nicole Hatherly, global brand strategist at Brand True North, encourages communication professionals to become “future-focused strategic frontrunners with a backward-facing perspective based on past experiences,” aka thought leaders.
As a thought leader, you can provoke a conversation, share your point of view and back it up with your expertise.
Tell memorable stories
We have an incredible opportunity to show how much we care about our employees and companies by telling memorable stories. Follow the first four steps to strengthen your brand and make yourself known as someone in constant need of story ideas.
Stories create experiences and captivate us emotionally, intellectually and physically. Engage your audiences by appealing to their emotional side and tell good stories that encourage action and invite others to share their stories.
In today’s world, everyone is a communicator, but not everyone is a communication professional. We need to remember that distinction and strengthen our professional brand. That’s why I encourage you to join IABC and engage with your local chapter to stay on top of what’s happening within the field, make great connections, exchange ideas and attend outstanding events and conferences.
Arek Gazda is a graduate student in DePaul University’s Professional Communication program and a professional communicator with experience in the financial and food service industries.