For those who take the big leap of traveling the last rope of Agency to corporate, the corporate environment could be pretty intimidating (not to scare you). The career that you have always dreamt of, the most important shift for most and the ultimate destination of your planned career path for many; is now here. Let’s admit that we, the communication professionals, always aspire to become a part of a fancy brand and become communication consultants to the brand with a fat paycheque and a really influential role in the organization. So setting the scene here, you have joined a mid to high sized international MNC with a really fancy Communications designation. Congratulations! Talking about the role, that sounds equally attractive.
On the first day of the job, you bring with yourself huge aspirations, some really ‘big ideas’ (reminds you of your PR agency, isn’t it), a flamboyant attitude and great zeal to bring together all the experience that you have so far earned in the agency; now ready to conquer the corporate world of communications. I still remember that day when I first came in and took a notepad to write down all the (15) ideas that were absolutely essential for the company and I wondered why such a big company has not been doing all these already.
After a few days, you start building your ideas further without consulting from your boss since the pace is quite slow (if you compare from your last agency, quite naturally) and you can’t wait to show them how talented you are. This is your (my) first mistake.
Now, once you share these with the boss, she shows a rather unexpected, calm response and term it as ‘It’s Good.’ You then wonder what went wrong. But your zeal is indestructible. You go on to discuss with other few colleagues and they seem to also not get equally excited about it. After a month or two, you start getting anxious. You start wondering as to how and why your rocking work profile is not so influencing in the company. You tend to realize that you as a function are a support function and there are more important roles in the company than yours (sales? Because it generates revenue; marketing because they are more associated with the product, finance because its all about the numbers). And there you are, with all your zeal and motivation, still reserved under the hood.
If you have read so far, I am pretty sure that either you are already in this situation or you aspire for the position that I am talking about. So here is the revelation guys-
Corporate is not about standing out, but standing along with team. It is not about big ideas but processes more aligned, predefined workflows and limited scope of disruption in the way they communicate. The SOPs are already worked out, you are a regional arm to the global team which has to develop a predefined workflow to avoid madness in operations, and your function is not the game changer but the game empire. You are more aligned to the HR team which you have never in the past dealt with (and kind of mismatch of what you had imagined). Ouch!
What you need to know now
You have been driving at fourth gear and you NEED to slow down (probably to second or at times first gear, at times- NEUTRAL). Step back, observe, listen and then take one thing at a time. You might want to set your own expectations right. Do not be overwhelmed by your own idea of Communication. Rather, try to understand the perception of your role from the different stakeholders. The first month (or two) must absolutely be about talking and listening to as many people in the organization as possible and at the same time, not form any judgments of your own (c’mon, you have been trained to that). As a next step, understand what your global counterparts have been doing in their markets. What is the scope of their work that keeps them occupied. From there, you would be able to decode a lot of mysteries here. Ask for communication guidelines, global goals, regional focus, etc.) These will help you define your role in the organization and get more clarity on the right way of doing things.
Caution: Diversion Ahead!
So here are a few cautionary recommendations that every communications professional will have to watch out for before/after switching the seats!
1. Observe, analyze. Repeat
For the first couple of months, instead of bustling vibrant with ideas and trying to execute your idea of communication, try understanding the key stakeholders , the employees, the SOPs and even the minutest of things in the office. Remember, effective communication can only happen if a good amount of time is spent in listening. And keep observing till you completely understand all the grey areas.
2. Develop Understanding and speak aloud
Your line managers will be happy to know that you have done your bit of observation. Trust me, they are generally more impressed not by the exceptional ideas that you bounce off but this tactic! (This is tried and tested). Apart from setting the impression right, this step is important for you to further strengthen your confidence on your understanding and fine-tune it for better understanding.
3. Stakeholders centric ideas
A couple of months down the line, you will be able to devise ideas to solve problems or needs of the different functions vis-à-vis the ideas that you might have thought of on the first day of your job. Although, from the fundamental level, you would know that those were more towards ‘Big Ideas’ and you might still believe on them, but more simpler ideas could be more meaningful if they are pitched at the right time and with the right goals of simple problem solving idea
4. Coordination is the key
You will realize slowly and gradually that you will have to face more SOPs, approvals and fine-tuning as you are at the center of your organizational business functions and you will have to take along all of them in one go. Maintaining strong coordination with everyone around will make your turnaround time more short and things will start smoothening up
5. Identify Internal Influencers
Act smart and you win the team. You will have to pay some time in terms of observing the influencers amongst the key people in the company who you would want to talk more often and discuss your initiatives. This will put you in the right eyes all the time.
6. Where is the ROI
You might find it difficult to explain your ideas only on the basis of their novelty. You will need to develop an ROI prediction for every activity that you work upon if you want approvals from the biggies. So work thoroughly on your numbers and it shall reap.
All in all, your journey to a new world has just begun. It can be very exciting and adventurous, in its own way ofcourse. But the key is to not keep comparing your agency freedom to your corporate responsibility.
All the best!