Time is one of our most precious resources. Next to trees and bees, time is what impacts us most on a daily basis. Time to work, time to play and time to rest.
by Lucy Denton
There’s always someone out there who will quip ‘[insert famous person’s name] has the same 24 hours in the day as you, use it’. As if to shame us for the fact that we have to carry out our life tasks without the help of nutritionists, personal trainers, infinite amounts of funds, and other support.
And for communications, time (and timing) is critical. That is why the phrase ‘make it worth the time’ is my mantra moving into 2022.
Make it worth my time
We have a mental health crisis in communications. It was evident prior to the pandemic (CIPR’s State of the Nation report 2018/19 showed that over half of those diagnosed with a mental health condition said that work contributed to their diagnosis). It is even more evident now (CIPR’s 2020/21 report showed 57% of respondents had seen their mental health decline somewhat or significantly over the last 12 months).
The glaring irony of spending so much of our time since the first lockdown, especially within internal comms, delivering focused campaigns and messaging to protect our colleague’s mental wellbeing is not lost on me, nor I expect, others within the profession. How often do we practice what we preach?
The past 18 months have been exhausting for me (and I can’t even begin to comprehend how great the pressure has been on colleagues working in frontline organisations), and the pressure isn’t likely to go anytime soon.
I have long believed in the concept of ‘more impact, less noise’, and I’ve spoken before about my experiences of working with teams to become more focused on core priorities to try and curb the dreaded ‘send out stuff’ (SOS) churn.
Research that I did in 2020 for my master’s dissertation on mental health and the comms profession showed that tactical churn is one of the major impacts on mental health at work, alongside unsupportive senior leadership. They are – to me – a symptom of one and the same issue. Recognition of the strategic value of communications.
Doing things well takes time – we all know this. Getting in on things early so we can craft alongside project teams means timely engagement with us – we all know this.
That’s why 2022 is the year where I am going to make my time, and my team’s time matter.
We recognise we can’t do everything. So lets focus our time where it adds the most strategic value. We’re refining our work into a small number of strategic priorities aligned to the expected business plan. Anything that doesn’t fit into these buckets – its not worth our time and resource.
My role is therefore to ensure senior leaders are bought into our approach and protect the team from rogue last-minute requests. I don’t anticipate perfectly smooth sailing, but at least if we can be a bit more rigid in our focus, we’ll have the time to make those areas we are focusing on as impactful as possible.
And as importantly, give the breathing space the team need to protect their mental health.
Make it worth their time
It’s not just our time that counts, it’s our audience’s time too.
In 2020, adults in the UK spent an average of 3 hours 37 minutes a day on smartphones, tablets and computers (nine minutes more than in 2019) and 82% of adults aged 16+ who go online have a social media profile (source – OFCOM Online Nation Report 2021). Our communications is having to break through an immense amount of noise and information. And this doesn’t even take into account the press, TV, radio and out of house advertising the public and stakeholders are bombarded with.
That’s why – by focussing more strategically on making an impact we can factor in the needs of our audiences and the messages we’re delivering – putting the time into exploring the best route, channel, time or tactic to make our messages land. Finding the right moment to engage our audience with our messages, meaning we can create the action or deliver the information that is relevant to them.
Make your time count
In summary, time is precious for all of us. And our comms is vital for our audiences, so let’s ensure we give it, and that senior leaders recognise, the strategic value that well thought out comms can achieve.
Our reputation has grown immensely since the COVID-19 response has showcased the value we bring to organisations, but there is more we can do, for all of us, for the better!
Sadly, COVID has also shown us that time is so very precious, and that we need to make the time for those we love, those we care for and for ourselves. I hope you can find time for those things that allow you to take time in 2022.
And if you are finding ways to work more effectively, or you have a mantra for 2022 please do share with me @radiolucy.
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