The Clean-Up Artist: Life as a Corporate Communicator

I was talking with my team the other day and made a unique observation about my past communication roles: I am a corporate janitor. No seriously, read on.

At first, they laugh. I mean who thinks of their role as a janitor? But think about this: In communications, you are either polishing a corporate message or cleaning up a mess.


Here are my general observations how life as a communicator parallel a janitor’s role:

1)   We are behind the scenes. We are supporting teams or executives. Communicators are behind the scenes preparing talking points, writing responses, or preparing executives for interviews. Many folks think they can do this because “ who doesn’t know how to talk and write?” Anyone who has worked in corporate communications knows while you write and talk a lot, you actually have to be extremely collaborative with a variety of folks, politically savvy, and be able to multitasks. It is more than just writing and talking, it’s about doing all these things behind the scenes without notice.

2)   We normally have a bag of tricks for any situation we come across. Communicators, at least organized ones, have templates, corporate themes/ trends written out, and other communication aides at their fingertips. Need a template to address a trend? I got it. I have files and notes on all types of topics just in case I need them.

3)   We are the MacGyver of corporate America. We generally have to operate on very little notice and with few resources. Paperclip anyone? How many times have you been pulled into a conversation without context? Or perhaps on the 11th hour of a project? I have an award on my desk that says, “Things You Should Have Told ME Yesterday!” While the award was a funny ha ha, there is a lot of truth behind it. Generally speaking, communicators have to act with little information or details that folks sometime don’t think is important, but in reality are.

4)   Sometimes we deal with the stinky stuff that no one else wanted to deal with. Normally, I see this with projects that get kicked down the road. Pass the buck, whatever idiom you like to use. Many times communicators have to deal with the things that other folks don’t want to address and it falls to you to address. And more often than not quickly.

I am sure there are more observations, can you think of any? My point is communications folks do a lot that I don’t think always gets attributed to them. Like most support folks, their skills are seen as “expected” or “ordinary.” Like janitors, it takes a special person to do all of the above with a smile on their face. If you are in the role of communications, you are in it for the fun and the challenge. I just don’t think everyone thinks about how much work is involved.


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