Whatever your job title, people will still treat you like the IT guy

Do people treat you like you’re their personal assistant? The role of editor or publisher can be undervalued and misunderstood by people. Wedge shares some of the common conmplaints he receives, and offers some glib retorts.

“I need this online by the end of play.”

“This has been approved by Big Scary Man Who You Don’t Know, it must be published as it is.”

“Jennie usually just does this for us, what’s the problem?”

“You’ve ruined my article, change it back to the my version.”

“No, I need four contact names at the bottom in case one of us is on holiday.”

“Why have you removed ‘click here’?”

“I wanted my flyer publishing as a Word document, why have you made it into a web page?”

I’m sure newspaper editors don’t get this sort of abuse and supercilious instructions from their contributers, but as an online editor, I get a lot of people who think I’m a web-techy guy who just pushes buttons and publishes any drivel that gets into my inbox.

The truth is I’m an Internal Communications specialist, and I work really hard to find the real message within the drivel that gets sent to me, and I communicate that message in a delightfully visual manner with clear, concise English.

I do try to manage contributor’s expectations; I let them know that I’m the communications Editor, and that I’ll work with them, collaborate even, on their first draft, and craft a final final version with them for their approval.

But still, I get people who spend their time digging holes or writing financial reports or whatever it is they do for 45 hours of the week whining at me that they know what’s best and I should just do as they say.

To be frank, it pisses me off. How very disrespectful of my role, how stupidly arrogant of them to think that they can do my job while it’s clear I couldn’t do their job (I couldn’t, I’ve spent 5 – 7 years on writing and publishing, not on anything else really).

The answers to the opening queries are as follows:

Just because you’re late on your deadline doesn’t mean that my other deadlines must be shifted. I’ll try to help you, but you should have come to me sooner, or at least let me know you needed something in the future. If it’s not business critical then don’t expect miracles. If it is business critical then speak nicely to me you crank!

I don’t know your Manager, and I’m not afraid of hir; when it comes to communications planning I will win every time, unless your boss is actually on the Board of Directors. Your article may have been glanced at by your own team, but it still reads like a dog wrote it with his itchy backside, and I know it will offend some of our staff; so it will be reviewed by the Internal Communications team.

I don’t care about the past; clearly this company has been under-resourced and people have been just doing their best to keep up. My role is dedicated to excellent communications, and there’s no problem except your unprofessional attitude to our readers. I will work with you to craft a well written and concise communication.

I have improved your article. I have cut out a lot of guff and self-congratulatory indulgent writing that contained no information of use to our stakeholders. I have taken your first draft, and this is the second draft, and I ask that you help me hammer out the finer points and take it to a third draft that we’re both happy with.

Articles need one point of contact / owner. If you’re asking people to contact ‘Gill or Paul’ you will end up splitting the workload, and also fewer people will bother contacting you as they perceive you’re not keen to take the responsibility.

You wanted a link to the Annual Report and I have done that, and let people know that it’s a 2MB PDF, I have simply woven the link into the text (or provided a bulleted hyperlink). ‘Click here’ is not something you see on the BBC, and only inexperienced business people use it, web people, and normal people at home don’t.

You wanted to make our readers visit a web page and then take the trouble to open a Word document that contained 50 words and a photo of a hammock. Such simple information is more suited to a web page. Now, our readers simply get the information as soon as they visit the web page, and that’s what they expect. The hammock photo also looks better now that I’ve resized it and allowed the text to flow around it.

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