Communicating in a Fast-Changing World: Lessons from a Journalist-Turned-CEO

Seven years ago, I embarked on a journey to balance my personal life and professional passion for storytelling by founding ModKaf, a communications consultancy. While the role of a former journalist is very different from that of a communications consultant, the essence of our work remains the same: how to make our message resonate and use authentic storytelling to influence our world.

Building ModKaf wasn’t easy and I’m immensely thankful to our early clients who believed in our vision. Over these years, we’ve weathered significant global shifts – wars, politics, economic challenges, and more. Yet, these tumultuous times have been rich with lessons, both personally and professionally. Personally, I’ve discovered the crucial importance of adequate sleep, the necessity of meditation for mental clarity, and that maintaining a positive, optimistic outlook is not just beneficial, but essential for business success. Dealing with skepticism and doubt is part of the journey, and I’ve found that responding with kindness is the most effective way to address and overcome negativity.

In the realm of our core business, the lessons have been equally abundant, albeit often challenging and eye-opening. Each experience has contributed to our growth and understanding, shaping ModKaf into the resilient and dynamic agency it is today.

Key Lessons Learned

1. The Challenge of Translating Internal Ethos

Many companies struggle with internal communication, impacting their ability to convey their mission externally. This gap, often due to resource shortages and misaligned organizational priorities, creates a disparity between a company’s intrinsic identity and its external projection. As external consultants, we face increased challenges when internal narratives are muddled or inconsistent. Our task is to bridge these gaps, a delicate and intricate process that demands extensive collaboration and a profound understanding of an organization’s core values and message.

2. The Vanishing Act of Internal Communications

The concept of internal communications is no longer just an afterthought; it’s almost nonexistent. Tools like Slack and Teams have transformed workplace collaboration, yet they often create an illusion of effective communication, merely facilitating conversations without truly nurturing a unified, company-wide narrative. This common oversight in valuing internal communications holds significant consequences, affecting not just employee engagement and morale, but also the consistency of the brand itself. To truly align employees with the company’s mission and values, a well-thought-out and cohesive internal communication strategy is imperative, one that goes beyond surface-level interactions to foster a deeper, more meaningful organizational dialogue.

3. Missed Opportunities to Earn Media

Companies often can’t clearly articulate their message internally, let alone to the media. This disconnect can result in public messaging that is inconsistent or confusing. A critical, yet often missed, step to address this issue is the identification and training of effective spokespeople. These individuals play a pivotal role in representing the company, as they need to not only embody the organization’s core values but also be skilled in articulating them in a clear and compelling manner to the external world.

4. The Sales vs. Marketing Dichotomy

There’s a real conflict between these departments. The inherent contrast between the transactional focus of sales teams and the relationship approach of marketing departments often results in conflicting strategies and objectives within an organization. Sales teams are typically geared towards achieving immediate results while marketing is investing in building and nurturing long-term customer relationships. Bridging the gap is essential for business success and requires strategic alignment on cohesive market engagement and effective customer relationship management, ensuring both immediate and sustained business growth. It also requires a culture of communications and efficacy of sales enablement activities including training and modelling.

5. The Key to Organizational Buy-In is Deliberate Change

Organizational change must be intentional and well-received. We’ve seen failures when leaders aggressively push agendas without sufficient buy-in, leading to decreased morale, complaints, and stalled campaigns. For change management to be successful, it requires deliberate and thoughtful planning, clear communication, and inclusive decision-making. It’s imperative to understand and respect the organization’s culture, working within its parameters to encourage gradual and meaningful change rather than imposing abrupt transformations.

6. The Critical Role of Market Awareness

Surprisingly, many in the marketing field don’t regularly follow news or industry trends. I discovered this firsthand when I queried a large marketing team about their regular engagement with news outlets and industry publications, only to be met with silence. This lack of engagement raises a critical question: how can a company effectively define its position in the market without a comprehensive understanding of the current landscape, including competitors, opportunities, challenges, and the evolving news cycle? Developing a well-informed and structured perspective is essential, as it not only enriches sales conversations but also serves as a solid foundation for interactions with journalists in the industry, as highlighted in point 3.

The journey from journalist to CEO has been enlightening. The core lesson is that communication, whether internal or external, is a powerful tool that needs careful handling and understanding. In our rapidly evolving world, staying true to the principles of effective communication is key to any organization’s success. At ModKaf, we’re committed to guiding our clients through these complex dynamics, using our hard-earned insights to help them thrive in an ever-changing landscape.


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