The Swear Jar Podcast: Stuck in the Communications Drive-Thru Window

The Dreaded Drive-Thru

Episode Summary

This week Andrew and Elizabeth talk about a fate that befalls even the best organizational communicators: the dreaded Drive-Thru Window. We don’t mean a literal drive-thru (but if working in one is your part-time jam, we don’t judge); we’re talking about when communicators are stuck in order-taking mode and cranking out tons of materials they know aren’t that good or aren’t that necessary.

Of course, the issue is that communicators are frustrated because they know they can and should be doing more strategic work, but there just isn’t time when the requests just keep coming.

We discussed four factors that can create ideal conditions for a drive-thru:

  • Processes that focus on output, rather than outcome
  • A misunderstood communication function
  • A poorly managed communications team
  • Inexperienced communicators who aren’t sure how to say no

Getting out the drive-thru window can be tricky. There are a lot of things that communicators can’t control, like senior executives, budgets and pandemics. But there are things communicators can do to get back to strategic, useful work, including

  • Asking for help
  • Connecting the work to organizational outcomes
  • Interjecting strategy discussions into the process
  • Doing a communications audit
  • Getting their manager onside
  • Creating a project charter
  • Finding a senior leadership ally

Given the insane amount of communication going on in response to COVID-19, communicators have an opporutntiy in the coming months to remind their managers and their organizations that they bring strategic value that can support change and uncertainty.

Key Topics

  • What is the Communications Drive-Thru of Pointlessness (1:00)
  • Why communicators find themselves in the drive-thru window (2:15)
  • Getting out of the drive-thru (9:00)
  • What we’re reading and liking (14:50)

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