If you’re responsible for communications in any large organisation, the likelihood is you’re blessed with the management of a team of skilled and committed communications professionals. These are you’re trusted lieutenants, the A team you depend upon to get the job done.

They pull together and help each other out despite being specialists – a press officer, an internal communications manager or an online whizz.  You were a specialist too, once upon a time, before your obvious talent and leadership capabilities got you elevated to the dizzy heights of department boss.

They’re sharp, smart and self sufficient.  They come equipped with the skills they need.  They don’t carry domestic traumas or sickness issues into the office.  They’re available to help at short notice when called on at weekends and public holidays. None of them is open to getting poached, headhunted, emigrating or having a mental breakdown.  If this sounds like your team, the company you’re working for is Carlsberg.

In the real world, managing teams is challenging, and no less so in the comms dept.  Some individuals are genuinely great, while others need a bit more help and encouragement.  It helps to choose wisely at the outset.  The best communications people I’ve worked with over the years shared a number of common personality traits.  In no particular order …

  • A healthy appetite. The best communications people are information sponges, reading, digesting and retaining information.  Their well of natural curiosity never runs dry.
  • Socially flexible. Despite military planning, someone will forget to schedule next week’s crisis in the diary, the CEO will change his mind about the annual report text just as the printing presses are heating up, and journalists call to enquire about unwelcome stories just as you’re about to leave the office.
  • A good memory. The best communications people run on gut instinct and instant memory retrieval. If they need to answer every  question with a “I’ll check and get back to you”, or convert every action into a ‘to do’ list, they might serve the business better in the admin pool … or maybe HR.
  • Calm energy. With muck and bullets airborne, you don’t need someone who brings the place into meltdown or starts to think in crooked lines.  Sometimes, we need to be warriors and in the heat of battle that can outlast the opponent, even if energy levels need sustaining by very strong coffee.
  • Comfortable in their own ignorance:  Grown pros admit it if they’re just not getting it while taking a brief.  You may need to reconsider this if they’re still not getting it after the product manager’s tenth attempt at explaining it.  Either that, or the product manager has development needs.
  • A strong engine.  We’re no strangers to late nights followed by early mornings, sometimes over an extended timeframe.  Avoid those who insist the company’s flexible working policy means they’re entitled to a lie in after every late finish. They’re not really up for the battle.
  • Insane and irrational optimism.  Some people are capable of digging deeper to find the positive when the roof has just fallen in. Others are not.
  • A strong constitution.  We need heavyweight champions because we continually drink in the coolest bars with a steady procession of the ‘A’ list celebrities, media personalities and cabinet ministers that need hosting.  Social lightweights dilute the team’s performance.