Expectations affect the role
Figure 11 shows that there are expectations placed on the communications function in all organizations. These expectations, for example from managers and management, affect what the communication professionals deliver. In other words, expectations influence which tasks and areas that communication professionals prioritize. The expectations on the work of the communication function, and thereby indirectly the organization’s dominating view on communications, in turn affect how communication is evaluated. If operational tasks such as producing text or messages are the primary expectation of the communications role, then this is also what will be measured. As we write in Chapter 6 on measuring communication, there is a risk that communication professionals simply perform the tasks that are easiest to measure. This is, however, problematic, as measuring how many articles have been written or how many visitors have come to a webpage does not say very much about how the organization's communication is connected to its overarching goals.
Create new expectations
The vicious circle of expectations and delivery needs to be broken if communication professionals are to move forward and take off their martyr's crown (see Figure n). More communication professionals need to dare to take center stage and suggest new priorities for communication, instead of feeling sorry for themselves and waiting for
Figure n Expectations, delivery and evaluations. Source: Falkheimer and Heide (2018).
someone else to clear the way. There is a plethora of knowledge and evidence of the value of good internal communication, but communication professionals need to learn how to stand up for this knowledge and connect it to their own competencies.
The question then becomes how the expectations on communication professionals can change. As we see it, changes can be made in all three parts of the model: expectations, delivery and evaluation. It is not possible to say which is the easiest way, or where it is best to start. This depends on each individual organization's context. Changing management and manager’s expectations could be made possible through thoughtful work by the communications manager who sits in management. For example, the communications manager could work to make management realize that everything an organization and its managers do is communication. American researcher Paul Watzalwick and his colleagues have developed five communication axioms, and the first one goes:
One cannot not communicate,19
Simply put, everything communicates, even non-communication, and everything can be understood and explained from a communication perspective. It is also possible to change expectations through educating and training managers in communication.
Another way to change expectations is to make small changes in delivery and deliver things that are not expected. Many communication professionals we have talked to say that they throw themselves into various projects. Members of the project teams are always very satisfied with the communication professionals' work and are surprised at what they could get out of them. You could, of course, even change measurements and measure things that usually are not considered. Measurements are often made routinely, and communication professionals tend to forget to measure the strategic work that they do. This could be because they lack knowledge and competence in measuring (read more in Chapter 6).
Low ambitions and multifaceted - a survival strategy?
Many communication professionals have ambitions too low to actually be able to take a strategic role, says Dutch professor in corporate communication Joep Corne- lissen.20 Instead, they build their careers on mastering specialist roles and various technical skills. They feel more secure in that role and do not dare to take the step towards a broader and more strategic role. This has meant that many communication professionals have welcomed the development of new technology that they can learn and adopt. Two examples are the intranet and social media. Another problem with this fascination and focuses on new media is that communication professionals tend to abandon their understanding of the complexity of communication, and instead return to a transmissions view (often without reflection).
Many communication professionals - and also communications managers - therefore contribute the view of communications role and meaning stagnating and failing to develop or broaden. In addition, many people like to call themselves "multifaceted," and because they can find it difficult to explain the strategic value of communication, they give up the fight for more resources too quickly.
There is also a widespread view among communication professionals that their profession means that they need to be able to do a bit of everything, because "everything,” even strategic work, eventually needs to be "shaped or figured" in text, image or some other format. This attitude shows that not even communication professionals understand that they can create value for the organization by, for example, training managers and coworkers to communicate better, or by facilitating meetings and communication between different departments or offices.
Internal communication is also strongly influenced by how the communications manager sees and understands the role of internal communication. If the communications manager considers internal communication to be like broadcasting news via the intranet, the risk is that all focus will be placed on that. This risk only increases if the communications manager has a background as a journalist and has an editorial perspective, even in their new role. Moreover, the responsibility for internal communication is often given to junior communication professionals or to administrators, and the expectations placed on them are to perform simpler tasks. Any connection to strategic questions is usually very weak.
This behavior and reasoning from the communication professionals can be seen as a pure survival strategy. Company management usually tends to take a very naive and simplistic view of communication, that it is easy to do, that no education is needed, and that one person should be able to do everything. While other departments may have a wide variety of roles to cover their duties, the opposite is usually true for the communications department. Many highly qualified and well- educated communications managers are struggling to get heard about their workplace needs, for enough self-sufficiency and more resources. It is not uncommon to meet senior communications managers who have chosen to give up and leave the profession because of facing too much resistance from their management colleagues. Those who remain choose their battles carefully and devote themselves to what is expected, which is often limited to dealing with media and various crises. Communication managers and directors rarely focus on internal communication from their place in the management group.