Communicators Must Be Leaders

In the Nov/Dec 2022 issue of PRSA‘s Strategies & Tactics, my article “Why Communicators Must Be Leaders” examines how we become a leader whenever we write, speak, or appear in an interview. Or, at least, we should be.

In the piece, I show that by standing in front of the room to give a talk, you are taking a leadership position. You have everyone’s eyes on you (at least at the beginning). You want your audience to “follow you.” So, how do you handle it?

“The first step is to think of yourself as a leader. You are setting the agenda, even if it’s been handed down to you by your boss. You are determining what gets emphasized, and how, and what will be downplayed — at least until you are edited. You are in charge.”

Having a leadership mentality means making sure that your audience knows what you expect of them. What you want them to say, feel, think, or do based on what you said or wrote. You need to customize your message for each individual audience, even though there will be overarching themes and ideas you will relate to everyone.

Being a leader also means listening. As I write in the piece:

“All too often, we think of communication as “one way” — we are sending something out into the universe and not expecting anything back. But good leaders know the importance of listening as well as speaking. You cannot know if your ideas are resonating if you don’t get feedback from those who’ve heard them. Good generals listen to their field commanders to find out how the troops are reacting. Great generals talk to their troops themselves.”

Sadly, while we are leaders as communicators, we are all-too-rarely put in leadership positions. Corporate Communications is only occasionally a path to the C-suite. So, we must “lead up.”

“We are communications experts because we know how to read the public, craft messages that will win them over and evaluate the success of those messages. We need to use those skills to convince management on the correct course for a company or organization. When we start thinking of ourselves as leaders, and not followers, we have the ability to steer the course of our organizations, and our careers”

PRSA members can read the whole article here.

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