Great stories don’t magically appear on intranets or in newsletters.
Just as a journalist chases down leads and develops sources, communicators must be willing to talk to people and find out what’s going on. This can be a challenge for those of us who prefer typing over speaking, but great storytelling requires a visible presence.
Communicators often spend a good chunk of time supporting leadership visibility—coaching and guiding execs to ensure they are talking to colleagues at all levels—but we must practice what we preach. We should mill about, mingle and consistently ask questions to unearth the compelling stories that’re hiding in plain sight.
Here are five ways to be more visible at work and to start having better conversations:
Work somewhere visible.
Do you lock yourself away in a darkened office every day?
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of workplace solitude and privacy, but communicators should be in the thick of things. You never know when an interruption or impromptu chat will turn into a great story.
At the very least, working in a visible, high-traffic space will prompt conversations, which is the best way to build genuine workplace relationships.
Speak to people at their desks.
It’s tempting to pick up the phone, chat on Slack or send a quick email—especially when the recipient is on another floor or in another building. However, face-to-face communication is worth the effort.
Meeting in person requires more effort, and it can be awkward, but you’ll have much richer conversations. You’ll pick up on nonverbal cues and subtext that would otherwise be lost. You’ll also build trust more easily.
There are health benefits to actively pursuing conversations, too. Getting up and moving around is much better than hunching over a computer all day, and just spending time with people can be a boon for your mental health.
You can still follow up with an email afterward, but always prioritize in-person conversations.
Get out to other offices, departments or locations.
Part of our role as communicators is to ensure that colleagues feel included, seen and heard.
Go visit the warehouse. Spend time with your front-line workers. Pay special attention to those employees who feel neglected or overlooked.
Try job shadowing another colleague for a day, or just ask to sit in a new department. Gain fresh perspectives, meet new people, and ask questions. Above all, listen intently.
Get to team meetings (not just your own).
Communicators should be bridge builders. If your organization is segmented into silos, actively work to cultivate trust between departments. Sit in on meetings, and ask for a few minutes to clarify your communication goals and roles.
Return the favor by looping in relevant department leaders to keep them abreast on comms initiatives, projects and plans. Ask for their feedback, ideas and insights, and show interest in other people’s work.
Organize coffee chats.
Try to organize meaningful conversations between colleagues who don’t know each other. If you can’t get traction on making this a companywide initiative, be assiduous about inviting different colleagues to chat on a regular basis.
Go beyond breezy banter to find out how you can help people. Ask how you can be of service, and solicit employees’ suggestions on how your workplace could improve.
Remember: Being busy is not an excuse. Everyone’s busy. Visibility—and availability—are part of the job description.
Do you have more tips on being a more visible communicator? Please share them in the comments below.
A version of this post first appeared on LinkedIn.