I work for a non profit that runs a number of courses where students from around the world live on site for 3 months. During this time their main meals are provided for in a cafeteria style set up. Food services is a critical part of the operation and with out it things could get really messy. For example, what if those staffing the kitchen suddenly decided to walk off the job. Basically 100 people would show up for a meal and chaos would ensue. Well maybe not, but we would do everything in our power to fix the problem as quickly as possible. We would all pitch in and help put food on our plates. Why? Because if we don’t we get hungry, we actually feel it, and not in some conceptual way, but physically in our stomaches. For that first night one solution might be to just fork out the money and get pizzas. People would be fed and could sleep soundly. Though that is not sustainable so we would quickly need to work on replacing the team and building it back up again so that this critical piece of our operations could flourish.
If you have read any of my past posts you would know that I love to compare coffee to communications. And as you can probably tell from my intro I am about to do the same with food. Your organization’s communications is critical to it’s health and future. Though why then do we often undervalue it, or underfeed it? Especially with our finances and personnel. In this post I am going to attempt to tell you what I think the problem is. You see to often the current state of our communications isn’t felt, like a lack of food in your stomach is felt. Instead
most of the fruit of investment doesn’t come for weeks, months, and sometimes years down the track.
It would be as if you weren’t allowed to eat a meal until a few months after it was cooked. For a more specific example, our organization, like most, spends money and has full time staff that focus on communications and recruiting. There have been seasons where that team has varied in size, and also where our digital marketing results have varied. Though when the number of new applications submitted for our schools goes down that does not affect our operations in any way. We still have just as many staff and students on site and our finances remain the same. Fast forward 6 months and those applications begin to arrive as students. This is where the rubber hits the road, or to stay on topic, when the stomach starts churning.
It is not the most complex of concepts but the simple reality that
we don’t feel our communications in the same way we do our food is dangerous.
It stops us from staying on the cutting edge and innovating. It also keeps us from taking the risks necessary in the first place. All that to say I am not here to put forward grand solutions. I just want to encourage you to keep risking, investing, and to be patient. Then in that season of being patient make sure to reflect on how your organization’s current communications health will impact the future. The best way to do this is to make sure you are measuring the right things and to keep those numbers in front of you, and any decision makers, as much as possible. (Click to read a blog on the biggest mistake I made when measuring results.)
Make sure that you can recognize when your communications is hungry.