AB Thinks  →  26th April 2023

How to be an effective communications and engagement consultant

What does a dead hedgehog have to do with employee engagement, you ask?

On a recent episode of The Internal Comms Podcast, guest Simon Monger told host Katie Macaulay about a photo he had seen of a dead hedgehog with “two fetching yellow lines across its back”. The worker who repainted the yellow lines hadn’t bothered to remove the poor animal.

“And it might sound like an odd metaphor for engagement. But for me, it kind of boils down to if you care about your job, if you’re invested in what you do, you want to do the best job that you can.”

In Simon’s line of work, the goal is always to move the hedgehog, so to speak. Simon is a comms and engagement consultant with a vast range of experience across various sectors.

Here are three suggestions he’s learned on his journey to becoming an internal communications consultant:

If you don’t have a plan, it’ll never happen
There’s an old quote from Simon on Rachel Miller’s website, saying that any comms practitioner must “have a plan, be focused, know where you want to be in five, 10, 20 years, have targets and keep track of success.”

In conversation with Katie, he’s clear that his approach has softened, and any plan needs leeway. “I have guide rails now,” he says. “So I have a loose direction I want to head in, but I’m less specific about how I get there.”

Setting the clear intention of becoming a consultant down the line will allow you to seek opportunities that propel you on your way. Get your guide rails in place.

Make people your passion
It goes without saying that any communications professional needs some personal skills. But as a comms consultant, you’ll need a sixth sense for the way people are feeling, right off the bat.

Being able to walk into an organisation and gauge how people are really feeling, and inspire the change needed for success, is key to consultancy success.

As Simon says, “When I started everybody said, ‘Change comms is something you specifically need to train for, and you’ll need to learn all of these different models and all the rest of it.’ But ultimately, if you look at pretty much any comms we do, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to inform, we’re trying to probably change behaviour, or get people to do something. While that’s all change, if you take it back to the ‘what do we want people to know, feel, and do?’ That’s integral to any good comms plan.”

Focusing on your people, instead of models, can help you stay on track.

If you were everyone’s cup of tea, you’d be a mug
It can be easy to fall into the trap of taking any and every task that is asked of you. But they won’t all align with who you are at your core.

To be the most effective comms consultant you can be, you need space to be yourself, to run with your own methods. Invariably, as people are human, you’ll come across people and situations that simply don’t fit with your ethos or way of working. It’s OK to say no to these opportunities, or steer them elsewhere. Chances are, there’s a consultant within your guide rails that will fit the bill.

Listen to the full episode here.