How to learn from the industry you’re in and amplify your impact as a comms practitioner

I’ve always wanted to learn about a few industries that I find really interesting. And lucky me, I’m a business communicator. This profession allows a person to learn about everything, everywhere, all the time.

But, how do we as communicators, actually learn deeply about a new industry, and quickly?

Don’t read about it, live it

It’s easy to get buried under paperwork and ‘urgent’ tasks. But the truly important information is out there, where our product or service is being produced and sold, and where it encounters our clients and customers. This ‘place’ might be the actual street, our website or app, on the phone, or the stratosphere. Wherever it is, we need to be there. Learning about it, testing it, talking to the people who buy it and sell it, holding it with our hands and hearts. That’s the only way to build compelling stories about it and connect meaningfully with employees or external stakeholders.

Talk to the people that know the product inside out

This is a consequence of the previous point. While the C-suite and leaders across an organisation possess great knowledge about everything within the company, front-line employees are the true rock stars. They know all there is to know about our product or service. Spending time with them is an invaluable source of information and helps us build long-lasting relationships that open new sources of insights for us. Also, third parties that sell or process our products have great things to share as well.

Participate in as many planning and strategy meetings as possible, at least at first

I can’t stress this enough. The importance of learning the business’ KPIs, how they’re measured and why they’re so important, is crucial, especially if you’ve never worked in that industry before. Knowing what’s the core of the business and what’s important will go a long way when building campaigns, developing channels, designing experiences and value propositions, and pitching partnerships.

Measure your impact to the business, not your own outputs

Long gone is the time when the impact of communications could be measured by the number of press releases, events held or magazines delivered. And thank God for that. Nowadays, our impact should go beyond creating experiences and telling stories. Our input to achieving organisational goals is key, and finally we’re allowed to show our true value. You know, besides ‘organising people’s birthday cakes’. Haha, not.

Always ask, never assume

There’s more of what we don’t know than what we do know. Market research, or any kind of research, is useful for a reason. We can’t always assume, no matter how experienced we are, that we know what others think and feel. Employees, job applicants, customers, clients, journalists, stockholders, etc., are all different worlds waiting to be discovered. We need to find out what they want, how they want it and when, at least once in a while. What we discover may confirm what we already know, and sometimes it may surprise us. But mainly, it will help us do our jobs better.

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