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Getting the most from your project communicator

SERIES ARTICLE

Communicating Projects – The Series
Article 3

By Ann Pilkington

The PR Academy

United Kingdom


As a project manager your role isn’t to do everything yourself (although maybe it sometimes seems that way!) but to ensure that you have the right specialists to help the project hit its milestones and achieve its benefits.

On larger projects you may have the benefit of full time communication lead, or you may have someone from a corporate communication team supporting you as and when needed. There is no best approach. A full time resource can really get to know the project, be an active member of the project team. But the support from corporate or organisation communication can bring with it the benefit of an overview across numerous projects resulting in synergies and less chance of communication clashes. Either way, how do you get the best from your communication lead? Here are some pointers:

Get communication involved from the very start – if possible before the project is even formed. It is a tremendous help for the communicator to understand the thinking and it can be hard to make this up later. Communicators can also help to shape the project as they often bring an understanding of what is happening in the external environment and what is on stakeholder agendas.

Ask your communicator to come up with the solution. One thing that really bugs the communicator is being brought a solution rather than the problem. Communication is most effective when the solution is designed once the problem is understood fully. Sometimes the answer may not even be a communication intervention.   Good communicators have a range of tools in their toolkit and should be able to select the most appropriate. So, seek their advice and counsel and don’t be surprised if they ask “why?” a lot!

Good communication should be measureable – it isn’t a mysterious “soft skill”. It should be based around objectives that the project helps to shape and signs up to. As a project manager, take time to discuss and agree the communication strategy objectives. Ensure that they are relevant, measurable and – most important of all – focussed on outcomes not outputs. Having an objective to deliver a number of events or quantity of briefings is useful, but you need to know that they have achieved the outcome you need to help your project succeed. Leading on from objectives and measurement, there needs to be a forum for your communication lead to give visibility to the strategy and what is being achieved so ensure that the communication function is represented at your project board. Please avoid making communication the last item on the agenda, it happens a lot and then everyone wants to rush through it because they are heading for a train or lunch!

As well as having communication as a standalone item, integrate communication into your project board agenda. For every item ask “what are the implications for communication?” It may well be that there isn’t a communication need and that’s fine, but it is important to ask the question.

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Editor’s note: This series of articles on effective project communications is by Ann Pilkington, founding director of the PR Academy (UK) and author of the book Communicating Projects published by Gower in 2013. Ann is one of the UK’s leading experts on communications; she shares her knowledge with project managers and teams around the world in this series in the PM World Journal.

 


 

About the Author


Style: "Neutral"Ann Pilkington

PR Academy
United Kingdom

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Pilkington
is the author of Communicating Projects published by Gower in 2013. She is a founding director of the PR Academy which provides qualifications, training and consultancy in all aspects of communication including change project communication and project management.

Information about Ann’s book, Communicating Projects, An End-to-End Guide to Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Effective Communication, can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/isbn/9781409453192.

Ann can be contacted at [email protected]

To see previous articles by Ann Pilkington, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/ann-pilkington/