You care about your project staff?
About your communications people, too?
Want to know what frustrates the s**t out of them?
There’s one key factor that makes them take up another kind of position as soon as the opportunity arises.
I’m pretty sure that they’ll tell you that being a communicator in development cooperation means that they’re hardly ever asked about the content a project wants to produce beforehand.
It’s one of many strong messages of disregard for the work they do.
The common procedure is that a communications person only gets to see content once it’s done.
Done meaning job finished on the side of the subject matter expert, who has sought approval from the boss already.
“Hey, that took so long already. The subject is sooo intricate that there’ll be absolutely no time for any of your kind of changes anyway.”
No ways. “Please only check for really terrible mistakes. It must go out now!”
Even if your communications person made a super poignant comment that led for the expected level of interest to go up from zero to something higher. “Naa, listen. Please don’t! Okay?”
The communications person is at the receiving end and she can consider herself lucky if she’s ever asked for in-process feedback.
Beforehand? – Never.
Afterwards? — “Yes, sure. Greatly appreciated, yeah. … Hmm … But you know that we all don’t have time to read this kind of thing. You’re aware of that hey? So save yourself the trouble and don’t make it too long.”
While you might think that you value your communications person and you need his support to coin the messages of your project, your message to him is pretty clear.
Groundhog day again and again and again.
Make sure you show appreciation for the work communications people do by acknowledging their requests to sit at the table early on — at least every once and a while.
Creating content is more than the subject matter plus a bit of formatting, editing and beautification. Or at least it could be.
Your communication people can create so much more value if you let you let them come in before you conceptualise your ideas.
And then show that you value their input.
I am not talking about: “Great work, last week. Hey, we all liked the color!”
This is the kind of praise you give children, not grown-up professionals.
Communications people need critical feedback that shows two things: you took your time for it and you have the professional competence to appraise the communications work done.
If you don’t have enough communications knowledge as a supervisor, seek to get a quote from someone who does have this capacity, who can professionally gauge and express how good the communications output is.
And again: Ask your communications people before you start creating content. You’ll stand a much better chance that the content finds interest with your target groups.
How about then: “Hey, you know what? Your input in the beginning to have a different angle at structuring the information for readers really made a difference. I had a couple of people from South Africa telling me at the event last week!”