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Communication, Communication Consultant, Flexibility, Remote work

The Modern Communicator + the case for balance and flexibility

Modern COmmunicator

As I write this,  I’m off exploring sections of the African continent on what has now become a  ‘workcation’: Between visiting heritage sites, hanging with Nelson Mandela’s grandson, safari and African Village tours, I’ve been checking emails and responding to messages (including urgent work related whats app prompts) with a 7 hour time difference to boot. Between sips of my favourite wines, I also compile a detailed to-do list. Later on today,  I’ll edit a project document (including an issue brief) and even later this week,  I’ll update a visibility plan around revised targets and expanded needs before making plans to visit a diamond mine and wine tour.  I mention this to put into perspective how the labour landscape has evolved in line with Information, Communication Technologies (ICTs), the need for attendant flexibilities and how to manage the sometimes blurred lines between work and personal space.

I suppose I have always been an advocate for remote work as circa 2006 when I began my communication journey, I sought to promote the “working remotely concept” which was then met with much scepticism.  After all,  it was then widely believed that you needed to be in office to convince your superiors that tasks were being completed.

Fast forward to 2007 when I operated in the fast paced Advertising and Marketing industry. By default,  extended hours,  late night into morning events (cue Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall), an ongoing work cycle (weekends,  holidays and then some)  dictated that some flexibility is offered to compensate for the extenuating circumstances. Note too, that Public Relations, Communications and Event Management consistently rank in the top 10 most stressful jobs.

With a mix of challenges, my foray into Local Area Marketing in the Food Services Industry;   Communication in Government services; Development Communication in the Foreign Services and several rounds of Corporate Communication brought with it what I’d like to call a “better appreciation” for the ability of the Modern communicator to effectively operate outside the confines of an office space.

Not to be carried away, however,  this was never a “taken for granted” process and a huge part of its success rested in a balance of trust and the ability to deliver.

I do recall, for example, a time when FMCG client requirements on a lifestyle project that had multiple sponsors, required my team (myself and a  photographer) to always be two steps ahead of the competition. After all,  the PR execs of all sponsoring companies would be issuing releases and the like and the media would likely allow space to publish only one of many.  To keep ahead of the competition,  following an event that wrapped at 3:00 a.m. I had to have a draft release ready,  fill in the blanks at the end of the event and go with photographer in tow to my office about 5 blocks away to load photographs,  select best shots, caption, get client approval (literally begging them not to go to bed before I got the go ahead to hit send)  and send to media before heading off to bed. This was at a time when I put up a fight against my employer’s proposal to equip me with a blackberry.  At the time, I thought the device would be invasive outside of work hours and staunchly resisted.

It was a tough call but I lived for the thrill of meeting deadlines even if it meant getting content off at 3:30 a.m via an office desktop.   This dedication to the task built confidence and trust around work ethic.  Positively, it set the precedence for what my employer and our clients could expect from me and further their confidence in my abilities in and outside of the office space. Negatively, it gave some indication that I was always accessible, available and willing to deliver even at the expense of personal space.

Later on within the United Nations system,  I again had a tough sell. Very important overseas family engagement being matched up against a major global observation that I would be responsible for coordinating in three Caribbean territories.  I pulled on every prior right that I had ever done to convince the country representative that not only was I capable but I would also deliver all required elements in a timely manner and so it is that I ventured off on a “work-cation” which is exactly what it was.  In between bridal shower,  wedding, family get together,  there was continued dialogue with a graphic designer,  printers, Local and regional office,   National Correspondents, Media and vendors.  After endless rounds of approvals,  compilations, edits and budgets,  I returned home 3 days ahead of the events with minor fixes towards a well-received execution. The positive being that I was able to manage both work and non-work priorities, the negative being that I had to share so many precious moments with bouts of work-related elements.

I highlight all of this to put into perspective that in the 21st century and beyond, the Communication dynamics have certainly evolved.  In fact, several professions require and even endorse some level of flexibility around work, given the extended and sometimes extenuating timelines.  Yet, in the same breadth, some organizations are yet to embrace the potential benefits to be had via flexible arrangements.

Just recently, I listened with empathy as a communication colleague bemoaned the fact that such a demanding workstation was yet to fully endorse ‘working remotely’ and ‘Flexible timing’.  For her, it signalled an unfair balance that needed to be addressed with some urgency.  As she put it,

“the very nature of my job cannot be classified as 9-5.  There will never be a point where I can predict some of the spontaneous organization needs that will have to be addressed with some great urgency. Imagine being called at 10:00 p.m. about a brief that was needed for 6:00 a.m, yet being denied an opportunity to work from home the following day, having spent the entire night working on the requested brief.  It only seems fair that some due consideration is given to encourage the ever fleeting work-life balance”.  

Having been in her shoes a few years prior, I was a mix of heartened and concerned by the International Labour Organization recently published findings around remote/flexible work options.  Under the banner “Working Anytime, Anywhere” the ILO-Eurofound report shows that the use of modern communication technologies facilitates a better overall work-life balance but, at the same time, also blurs the boundaries between work and personal life.

Having lived the remote/flexible life as an Integrated Marketing and Development Communication consultant, I widely agreed with several of the research’s findings and have found that with some employer/employee discourse, scheduling and digital disconnection, even with the worrying aspects of the research, we can be one step closer to the work-life balance.

From experience, some important guidelines include:

1. Effective Monitoring of time frames: While the modern communicator and indeed several other job-related landscapes will require some flexibility, it is important to monitor the time frames that are being allocated to work and to ‘life’.  How many of you can relate to being up until 3 am to get a jump start on a document? or if, you’re like me, getting a few hours in then getting up at 11:00 p.m. and working until it is ‘time to leave for the day’? Bad habits (even with good intentions) die hard and so I’ve often had to continuously remind myself about this and take decided steps to overcome this workaholic hurdle.

2. Make ‘personal life’ a priority: In line with my workaholic admission above, an important step is to make time for your personal life a deliberate effort.  This has included scheduled after work activities which require me to get on up and out- a gym session, a yoga class, a spa appointment, doing a pickup, supermarket run etc. Essentially, I have forced myself out to ensure that every minute is not spent working.

3. Set Realistic Expectations: This is where the employer-employee / client-patron relationship dynamics come into play. Using reasonable time factors, will it be realistic to complete the task overnight? Often, I found that while committing a task, I’ve had to assess factors such as whether or not there are third party vendors involved and the relevant lead time needed from their end and how it affects my deliverables. Also, establish early in what is ‘appropriate communications’ in line with your personal life’s boundaries… Ask and answer questions such as: Is it ok to call after x time frame? Under what circumstances? Is it ok to whats app? Am I only email accessible? Answers to these questions will help the modern communicator to better separate the lines between work and personal space.

4. Prove Your Worth: The case for remote work/flexibility may not be easy.  I’ve found that by carefully demonstrating that you are able to handle the job’s demands in and out of office has led to a process whereby trust is built.  This trust too is built on how effectively and professionally you have been able to handle similar prior engagements. Put your best foot forward and manage the communication process even while you are away from an office space and ultimately, utilize this effective management to further encourage additional flexibility.

5. Know your target: I say this in just about every blog post whether it is about communication in general, communicating over the festive season or the messages that you are communicating, yet it continues to ring true.  While you can follow all steps outlined above, it ultimately boils down to who your client/ employer is and where they are in the readiness cycle.  Within my network, communicators have all had to deal with varying degrees of readiness.  In the end, it is about how the process is managed and how you are able to convince that you will be able to deliver in tandem with the client/employer’s expectations against your own personal obligations and space requirements.

6. Disconnect Digitally: Via my Jamaican Mommies blog, I had previously written about Breaking the Social Media Curse for Better Parenting and the rules therein applies for just about every aspect of life. At the risk of having a life lived online, I am fast becoming a proponent of ‘All phones centre of the table, drinks on the first person to touch their phone’ when out with friends or “No Social Media after 10:00 p.m.” within the household space. Indeed, the same tool that has helped to facilitate remote/ flexible work can threaten to break entire relationships apart.  When advocating for additional remote/flexi time, it is, therefore, critical to ensure that you do not fall prey to digital doom.

Does your job require/allow flexible/ remote work? Have you experienced challenges when proposing same? How do you manage the work and life divide on the flexible side? Share below. I’d be happy to hear some of the existing strategies you utilize and some of the challenges to date.

Modern COmmunicator


Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.

 

 

 

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Communication, Communication Consultant, Communication Tips

What Messages Am I Sending? Inspiring Teenagers to communicate with clarity.

what messages am I sending_

 

 

 

 

 

 

In late 2016, I spoke to a group of teenagers during a Flourish Mentorship programme session under the theme “What Messages Am I sending?” During this presentation I sought to highlight several aspects of communication in a ‘teen friendly way’.  In addition to firstly defining Communication, I broke down the key messages around major concepts related to:

  • What we Say versus What we MEAN
  • HOW we say what we say and how others INTERPRET it
  • Non verbal communication/BODY LANGUAGE
  • Speech APPROPRIATENESS-friends versus adults versus officials
  • How we communicate via SOCIAL MEDIA and effects on language Development

In keeping the presentation engaging for my teenaged audience (13-19 years), I crafted an acronym to help them remember the key points:

  • Manner
  • Expressions
  • Sound
  • Say
  • Audience
  • General Appearance
  • Expectation
  • Social Media

The full presentation can be viewed via my slideshare uploads 

 

what messages am I sending_

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Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.

Communication, Communication Tips, Uncategorized

Tis the season’ and some communication lessons

I love the Christmas season for more reasons than one! Commercialization aside, this festive period  is indeed the most wonderful time of the year for persons like me who are big on family.   Importantly too, the Christmas season remains special because it is a time when I get to utilize one of my favourite medium of communication most- Face to Face!

You see with the evolution of Communication, the medium have become wide and varied to include:

  • Face to Face communication
  • Two way remote communication (Cell phone calls and texts, video calls)
  • Written Communication (Letters, Emails, sms)
  • Social Media Communication (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In et al)
  • Electronic Communication (Radio, Television)

    and even magazines and billboards-Cue Drake sending Rihanna a Congrats message via Billboard) .  Truthfully, these varied media do have a place and numerous functions, yet especially at Christmas nothing beats more personal forms of communication for me.

While I basked in the glory of some quality time over the holidays, it got me thinking about some important communication lessons especially during this time of the year: Continue reading “Tis the season’ and some communication lessons”

Uncategorized

Re-discovering Paper.li for collating themed news

I have long known of Paper.li but recently reacquainted myself with the platform.  This time I decided to focus on topical issues that were more in line with my career interests of Development Communication / C4D and other advances in the Media and communication arena.

If you are not in the know, Paper.li, A snippet from their official website reads:

The platform. Unparalleled power.

Paper.li gives you access to an ever-expanding universe of articles, blog posts, and rich media content. We automatically process more than 250 million social media posts each day, extracting & analyzing over 25 million articles. Only Paper.li lets you tap into this powerful media flow to find exactly what you need, and publish it easily on the web and in social media.

As I am still navigating the platform, I have opted to utilize the free version and have started collecting articles that stood out to me thus far.  You can have a look at my collection to date and it does help that it has a cute yet professional title-The Shanoy Coombs daily! I love it! (P.S. I have since updated the title to the Communication in Motion Daily)

Are you into development communication? Have a look at some of my stories.  Also be sure to share some of your favourite finds to date, I’d be happy to share some of the most impactful ones via my paper-The Shanoy Coombs daily (renamed the Communication in Motion Daily!)

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Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.

Uncategorized

What is Communication?

As a wide-eyed, eager beaver entering the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) a decade ago, one of the very first topics on our course notes was the definition for the term Communication. Having been exposed to several such definitions, one has particularly stood out to me, been tested and found solid over all these years-that coined by the late great, Professor Aggrey Brown.  As one of the revered lecturers at the region’s premier media and Communication Institute, I expected no less from the man who has etched his mark on the region’s communication landscape.

Amazingly, if you ask any CARIMAC graduate to define Communication, naturally Prof Brown’s definition will likely be quoted word for word and it reads thus:

“Communication is the the interactive transference of shared meanings between intelligences”

In true prof Brown fashion, he later broke out the key terms as follows:

  • Interactive : Interactive indicates that the Communication process is not one dimensional, static or one sided. It notes that it requires a process of sending and receiving and opportunities for feedback.
  • Transference: Transference refers to how a message is sent and taps into the medium and effectiveness of those media.
  • Shared meanings: Shared meanings denotes that both sides of the communication process have some ‘common ground’ be it a shared language, shared colloquial terms, shared understanding of cultural context and non verbal cues.
  • between Intelligences: The term between begs to be noticed as it further reinforces the point of communication not being a one sided process. Intelligences as well ties into the shared meaning breakout as outlined above.  It suggests that there needs to be some capacity to acquire and apply knowledge as well as the capacity for interaction.

Well ahead of its time, Prof’s Brown’s definition for Communication sought out to remind us all that for communication to be successful it had to include both sender and receiver, utilizing a medium/ mediums with shared cues or codes which would improve the likelihood of the message being received and understood.

At the broader level, other definitions of communication include:

  1. Two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meaningBusiness Dictionary
  2. A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior- Miriam Webster

Notably, there is a huge difference between Communication and Communication(S) Simply, CommunicationS is a system for transmitting or exchanging information – such as computers, telephones, radio and television while Communication involves individuals exchanging information or messages through shared symbols, behaviours or signs.  The CommunicationS Practitioner is therefore more likely to be your cable guy or your telephone technician while the Communication Practitioner is more likely to be your Public Relations, Public Education, Advocacy or Knowledge Management Professional.

To better understand Communication, several practitioners illustrate same as a 8 step process as outlined below

communication-process
Image via Yana Zelenskaya on LinkedIn

BusinessCommunication.Com also provides a noteworthy breakout in a post titled Steps of Communication Process.

I’ve often gone through the rounds of doing this breakout for varied groupings and the very next question is always “So What does a Communication Professional do?” As this is asked so frequently, I’ll may just do a post in short order highlighting this area.

Know of other meaningful definitions for Communication? Share them with us below.

 

WHAT IS COMMUNICATION_


Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.

C4D, Communication, Communication for Development

Communication for Development: The Food and Agriculture Way

A few years ago in 2013, I joined a group of Communication for Development Professionals within the United Nations’system for what was dubbed a Communication for Development (C4D) roundtable. During this presentation, C4D Professionals made diverse presentations highlighting how C4D had been applied to development interventions in their respective agencies. As the communication Consultant for the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Jamaica, The Bahamas and Belize, the following presentation was made in line with Jamaica specific C4D interventions for the period under review.

Have you been utilizing Communication for Development? Share some of your C4D successes via comment below.


Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.

C4D, Communication, Communication for Development

The Communication Initiative Network: Where C4D ers connect

I smile as I remember when I inquired about varied portals for Development Communication from a colleague. With a few options, I went researching and settled on the Communication Initiative (CI) network as one of the places that had all the relevant resources, opportunities to network and persons who were serious about the role they played in effecting change globally via Communication.

I was impressed too that the network offered opportunities to view global content as well as content filtered by region including Latin America and Africa.  The CI also serves as a useful hub for identifying job opportunities, training sessions, conferences, meetings, Requests for Proposals and even avenues for collaboration. There is also an extensive segment with support materials, research publications and academic content related to change theories and Planning Models.

The blogs section also keeps a running log of content related to challenges and opportunities as well as outcomes from C4D /Behaviour change interventions.

In a phrase, the Communication Initiative lists its mission as:

To convene the communication and media development, social and behavioural change community for more effective local, national, and international development action

In the event you are interested in connecting with professionals in the Communication and Media Development Arena, be sure to head on over to the Communications Initiative Network Website and it doesn’t hurt to say you were sent via ShanoyCoombs.com.

Are you a member of other professional communication networks? Share with us.  We are super social and always seeking out like minded professionals.


Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.