SAY NO: Strategies for saying ‘no’ more effectively to comms requests

There was an excellent Zoom session about saying ‘no’ to requests better.

Cara Martin suggested the topic which became a Zoom session for the Public Sector Comms Headspace.

Saying ‘no’ can range from how to decline a non-comms request to turning down an order for leaflets when the answer patently isn’t.

A few years ago, I crowdsourced examples. It went from daft to seriously daft. A  request to print out the internet was the winner, if I recall. 

But it’s more the sheer volume of work that’s the issue. 

The showing that research says get involved early route

Firstly, here’s some research I was involved with.

It looks at the relationship between comms’ early involvement and success.

In a nutshell, the earlier comms can be involved the greater chance of success.

In training, I include this slide as a way to politely set expectation levels. Come late and you’ve less chance of this being a success. With that in mind, you can do your level best but it won’t be as successful as it could have been. Got anything on the launchpad? Okay, let’s chat about it.

This is fine for last minute requests but how about requests for the wrong thing?

The GCS 2010 route

In 2010, comms was revolutionised by the incoming administration through a basic idea.

The basic idea was no business plan = no comms.

So, if there’s no business plan as to why this needs doing then it woul;dn’t get done and even the most junior of comms officer was empowered to give this reply.

Of course, you need senior leadership buy-in for this.   

The pushing back against drone footage requests by quick comms planning route

I always remember the conversation that went along the lines of someone important demanding drone footage. Why? because Wolverhampton did it. As a reason this is pretty weak.

The comms plan I use has been adapted from a CIPR comms plan. I’ve blogged about this before here. There is a template you can download. Take a look here.

It takes 10 minutes to run through or it can take all day if you want to stretch it out. 

The important thing is you sit down with the person who needs the comms to draw out what they need and who their audience is. 

The senior buy-in route

This is the hardest to achieve but by far the most effective. 

Talk to the chief exec in peacetime. Point out that they’re doing a lot of unimportant stuff when they need to be concentrating on their priorities. Could theory concentrate on the important? You can? Fantastic. Get a list of those priorities. Turn it into a pledge card. Here’s what we’ll do well.

The rest? offer some self-service, maybe but that’s about it.

Good luck.

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