By Belinda Willis
Director Communications & Marketing - City of Mansfield, TX
As a communications director in a two-person shop, I spend most of my days one of two ways: either I’m at the keyboard furiously typing content for our various communications channels or I’m putting out fires through phone calls or emails.
My office is less than inviting; it’s more like the cage at the zoo with a sign “Don’t poke or feed the wild animals.” It’s easy for me to put on blinders and only give attention to the crisis du jour.
In the past my one opportunity to venture out of my cage was in preparation for the video for our annual employee appreciation banquet. It was there that I got a chance to see what my fellow city employees were doing at their jobs and how they were impacting our city through their talents and skills.
But it really needed to be more than a once a year venture. So recently I’ve made an effort to get out and connect with some of our employees, especially the front line folks who are literally in the trenches day in and day out. It’s really been an amazing experience.
You never know what you’re going to find. Maybe that streets crew leader that you thought was so shy has a wicked sense of humor and could be the perfect person for a video about the public works division. Or perhaps there’s a librarian whose creative streak results in some great, viral-worthy social media engagement.
There are most likely hidden figures in your organization that could bring a whole new dimension to your communication efforts. They could be great storytellers, connecting with your audiences in a unique way and offering a perspective that is fresh and powerful. Maybe they have an untapped talent. Lord know the Lip Sync competition revealed thousands of police officers ready for Broadway or a Jennifer Lopez video.
But for them to be a part of your storytelling or to put that talent to good use, you have to take them out of shadows and into the spotlight. And you have to know they are there. The impact of these hidden figures on your community could be significant, like female mathematicians and engineers who helped send the U.S. into space but were unknown to history.
So toss the keyboard. Put the phone on voicemail. Mute the email alerts. No one ever thrived in a cage. Open the door and go on the hunt for the hidden figures in your organization. You can set aside one or two days a month where you visit an office or facility outside of City Hall and connect with colleagues in those departments. Spend the morning watching crews fill pot holes. Maybe ride along with a police officer.
It always helps to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to truly understand their perspective. You might also find that your organization is filled with individuals that will send your communication efforts soaring.
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