Being a communicator can be straight up lonely.
You don’t know everybody, but you do know everybody’s business. You help forge connections, but you often don’t get to participate in the collaboration that follows. And depending on the size of your organization and its needs, you may be the sole member of your team.
So it’s important for you to take time to reach out with your fellow communicators. Here’s why…
Commiseration is insanely cathartic.
Have you ever described a problem to someone in communications/marketing/PR/design, and they groan and nod knowingly, and you feel SO VALIDATED? Knowing you’re not alone is huge, especially when you’re a one-man or one-woman show. For some reason, learning that your problems are experienced by countless others makes them seem much easier to deal with. It also makes you feel a whole lot less crazy.
Crowd-sourcing solutions saves time.
Say you work in higher education, and you’ve started to realize that you need a way to manage your digital marketing assets — photos, logo files, etc. — so that everyone on campus can use them. Why not reach out to other communicators at peer universities and ask if they’ve implemented a program for a similar purpose? You can learn what worked, what didn’t work, and why. And you can do it a lot faster than if you were to embark on the discovery process alone.
That’s not to say you should flat-out copy someone’s answer to a common problem — organizations may have the same problem, but the environment it exists in is likely to be at least somewhat different. It’s just that asking for feedback from your peers can help narrow the field or give you a better vantage point.
Fortune tellers aren’t free…or legit.
Would you like to know what communication issues your organization might face in five years? Yes?
Go talk to communicators at peer institutions or organizations who are slightly larger or further ahead of the curve in terms of technology than you are. Chances are they’ll be more than happy to share lessons learned from their growing pains.
How to Network: A few ideas
Whether you’re new to an organization or you’re firmly established, here are a few ideas for how to expand your network of communicators:
1. If your organization is part of a larger, decentralized institution, ask around and see if there’s an existing communicators’ group comprised of representatives from other units/departments. If there’s not, start one!
2. Seek out peer communicators, whether they’re at nonprofits, companies, universities, or agencies. Introduce yourself, and ask for their advice on an issue you’ve been struggling with. You might be surprised at how accommodating they can be (when they have time).
3. Join a LinkedIn group. These days, there are groups for just about everything on LinkedIn. Find one that fits your field, and dive into the conversations.
4. Look for bloggers or companies who specialize in communications and marketing, like Ragan Communications. Once you find some, get involved in their conversations via Twitter, Facebook, and blog/article comments. After you’ve established a rapport with a few folks, try DMing them with specific questions.
5. Research professional organizations for communicators, and consider joining at least one. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) comes to mind, as does the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
I’d love to hear how networking with other communicators has helped you. Feel free to share a story or two in the comments!