ThoughtSummit is fast approaching, and we have an impressive lineup of speakers. We recently sat down with speaker Chuck Gose and picked his brain on some of the challenges facing internal communications professionals.
Chuck is the founder and host of ICology and the co-creator of “The Very Hungry Communicator” and The Periodic Table of Internal Communications. Chuck’s talk titled “You can’t Commsplain Your Way to Success” will be an uncomfortable yet humorous conversation where communicators learn to take ownership and overcome the denial we all have about explaining away our challenges.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing communicators today?
This is a doozy of a question. But I believe the biggest problem is credibility. I believe we are credible professionals and communicators but sometimes we either doubt ourselves or are doubted by our businesses. This can change and can change very easily. But it starts with us. We need to align what we do with the business and take credit for our successes.
What behaviors do you think communicators need to change?
We have to stop sabotaging ourselves. We have to stop saying things like “Oh I’m not a numbers person” or “I don’t do math.” No one is asking you to. What they are asking you is to be a business professional. And being a business professional requires numbers. They’re not asking for advanced mathematics. And in case you’re curious, there’s no such thing as being bad at math. You simply don’t like it.
What are the most important tools communicators need today?
The most important tools are the ones that a communicator’s audience—employees—will use. Some communicators project their own biases over the tools that THEY like. I was guilty of this in the past. Take this to the marketing world. If a marketer’s customer doesn’t read the newspaper, then they wouldn’t put ads in the newspaper. If your employees can’t get or don’t read email, then don’t send them emails. But here’s where marketing typically has a leg up. They KNOW that their consumers don’t get the paper. Often communicators are guessing. Talk to your employees and find out what they like and meet them where they are.
What inspired you to write your latest book?
I worked on “The Very Hungry Communicator” with Alan Oram, Caroline Roodhouse, and the team at Alive With Ideas. Alan asked me a very simple question, “What’s the one word you’d use to describe communicators you like working with?” For once in my life, I paused and thought about the answer. And replied, “Hungry.” I like working with hungry communicators. And within seconds, we realized how much “hungry communicators” sounded like the classic children’s book, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” And so we decided to take communicators on the journey of creativity to become a butterfly...so to speak.
What advice would you give to communicators?
Take risks. Calculated ones. This isn’t some cliche about getting out of your comfort zone. We simply can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. Even if it is working. We must keep reinventing internal communication at our companies. During a Chuck Chats webinar, one of the attendees commented that their company SUPPORTED failure. Think about that. Not tolerated. Supported. But let’s keep in mind that failure comes in lots of shapes and flavors. So take the risks that could really pay off. And if they fail, nobody dies.
How can communicators gain approval and support for communication initiatives?
This is a pretty simple one. Every business—I don’t care if you’re large, small, for-profit, non-profit—has goals and objectives. Communicators must align their strategies and planning with what the business wants and needs to accomplish. By executing against that, communicators should be able to prove how their efforts improved the business. Perhaps easier said than done, but I don’t think so.
What are the prime elements of strong communication in the workplace?
Two important elements that I think are often missing are creativity and thoughtfulness. When I hear communicators describe what they do, it often sounds like the Post Office. “Someone sends me a message and then I put it over there.” That’s not adding value. But creativity and thoughtfulness add context to communication. And context can mean everything to an employee.
Who are your communication heroes? And what inspires you?
I’m inspired by people like Rachel Miller, Alan Oram, Pinaki Kathiari and others who give and give and give to our profession but take no credit for their contributions. But I’m also inspired by people outside of the profession who think beyond the status quo. Take for example the minds behind “Freakonomics.” Their tagline is “the hidden side of everything.” And that can so eloquently describe what internal communicators are doing. Rarely do I read something in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company or Inc. that doesn’t have some bearing on the world of IC.
Can you share with us some secrets about your talk at ThoughtSummit?
I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with Kristin Hancock. Not only is she an amazing and thoughtful communicator but also my fiancé. We both have seen behavior and actions from communicators that damage their reputation and careers. We’ve termed this as “commsplaining.” Want to learn more? Buy a ticket.
Why do you think conferences like ThoughtSummit are beneficial?
First off, it’s a privilege to be a part of the event and I know attendees are making quite an investment in time and resources to be a part of it. Anytime communicators can get together and see that they are surrounded by friends should only encourage them more. In that room, we don’t have to explain what we do. But you can share, learn and listen to your peers. And that’s pretty amazing. Hope to see many friendly and new faces there.
Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.