Communication: Blanded or Branded
I just returned from Louisiana, providing back-to-back keynotes to the PMI chapters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge on project communication. It's a common understanding around project management types that 90 percent of a project manager's time should be spent communicating with project stakeholders... through meetings, status reports, issues logs, emails, et cetera.
What too few project managers think about is stamping these critical communications with their own personal brand. They think, "As long as I get the email sent out, who cares what people really think about it?" This can be a very dangerous attitude and approach to project management.
The more I evolve in this profession, the less I enjoy spending time with other project managers. I don't have anything against them, mind you; I'd rather spend my time with people who are actually out there DOING projects but just not giving themselves the title of project managers. I tend to learn a lot from those outside my industry, and their projects tend to be more interesting.
One such person is Mike Wagner from the White Rabbit Group. He's the first one who taught me that branding should be DIRTY, and it was this principle on which I based my presentation on project communications:
DIFFERENT: Do people see a noticeable change in your communications among the sea of emails and deliverables fighting to get through the "crap filter"? Are you being noticed? If you are being noticed, then you are probably either loved or hated. Even being hated is a good thing; they'll remember you.
INVITING: If your communications are 8-point font with no white space or bullets, you are probably not luring people into your communication. Rather than putting up barbed wire that turns off your audience, learn the "art of seduction" to make them want to know more.
RELEVANT: Are you giving your stakeholders the right messages with the right timing? Even the best of news can be a disaster if it's delivered at the wrong time. Learning how to headline and summarize makes for more relevance than dumping everything you know. What does your audience care about?
TRUTHFUL: I write business fiction, but there's little room for it on a status report or an issues log. Balance tact with honesty and sensitivity to ensure the correct issues are hitting the radar screens of those who can help resolve them. Prove you are managing your project with integrity.
YOURS: Can people tell your style from Herb in the next cubicle? Are you proud of your communication? Do people see your markings all over a project archive? If so, you are personally branding the messages and the channels to truly own what you're saying.
Yes, you can spend your 90 percent communication allotment doing everything exactly the same way as everybody else. Or you can make your message shine through and get your project (and yourself) noticed.