"So many people are operating on an old model of communication, and the way that we send and receive information has changed dramatically," Axios communications strategist and writer Eleanor Hawkins tells Doug Simon. "The internal memo doesn't necessarily work anymore."
The shifting ground rules, Hawkins says, has led to a greater reliance on communications pros in the executive suite. "More and more executives are prioritizing communication and those business leaders who aren't natural communicators are aligning themselves and becoming super close with their chief communications officers."
That has also led to some changes in how communications leaders have to do their jobs. "Chief communications officers are starting to absorb more responsibilities. So, whether that is taking on ESG and corporate social responsibility, whether they're taking on internal communications, which traditionally sat under HR, or whether they're taking on marketing and social media, we're seeing a shift in alignment within the communications space."
Taking on those new duties also takes a new approach, Hawkins says. "Communicators themselves need to learn how to show up and to be business advisers and not be afraid to be the 'no' person, not to be afraid to raise the controversial questions, not to be afraid to be a key voice in the room."
As the writer of the Axios communicators newsletter, Hawkins has taken a deep dive into how communicators can help their organizations break through in a changed business environment.
One key concept to breaking through, she says, is "smart brevity, a very quick way to reach people." She tells Simon that studies done by Axios found that "only about 6% of people make it all the way through" a given piece of content, "whether it's an article or a note" and just "20% make it past the first paragraph."
To ensure that readers still get the message, smart brevity aims to give them "the quick lead, we tell you why it matters, and then we say, if you want to go deeper, here's what else."
Another effective strategy, Hawkins says, is "working backwards—asking yourself, who are you trying to reach and what do you want them to walk away with? It's not necessarily what you want to put out. It's what you think they need to hear and how they want to hear it."
She also stresses the need to get comforatble with using data to reach audiences. "One trend that I'm watching a lot of is all of the different data options that are out there for communication professionals."
And she also says that communicators need to be creative about where they look to find their auciences. "It's really about taking risks and understanding where your audience is and then micro-targeting them. There are so many different ways and so many different channels to capitalize on."
Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]