My Coworker Has a Flip Phone: A Guide to Communicating with Non-Communicators


As PR professionals, we’ve all been on communications teams that run like well-oiled machines. You expect everyone on your team to answer emails within 24 hours, if not within 24 minutes. You host meetings to plan meetings, and then have meetings to talk about meetings that just occurred. Your calendars are synchronized, your social media notifications are turned on, and your team is ready to rock ‘n’ roll with any project that comes at you.

Sadly, this is a dream scenario that rarely exists outside of the communications world. When you must dive into a corporation or nonprofit organization, whether working in-house or through an agency, the crystal-clear communication you used to enjoy gets muddied. Facilitating communication with people who are not communications professionals is a daunting but unavoidable task that every PR professional must face. Here are five tips that will help bridge the gap between professional communicators and professionals in other disciplines.

  1. Understand their goals and what they value most. Communications is clearly the most important thing on your mind, but more often than not, it is ranked pretty low on other professionals’ priority lists. You must understand what really matters to your co-workers or clients in order to communicate with them successfully. Take the time to learn both their short-term and long-term goals. With these in mind, you can then focus solely on what they need to know and tailor your communication to best pique their interest. If you can show them the “What’s in it for me?” factor, they will be more receptive to your message.

  2. Know their needs, concerns and deadlines. A busy professional won’t be happy that you scheduled a community meet-and-greet the day before a large project deadline or presentation. While this seems like a rookie mistake, it can only be avoided if you know your team’s calendars and major deadlines. Ask to stay up to date on current projects outside of the communications realm and know what needs to be done to complete those projects. Even better, have a seat at the table while these projects are being discussed during meetings. The ability to competently speak about the team’s projects will command respect and attention.

  3. Establish mutual goals. This seems like a no-brainer. When people are working together toward a mutual goal, they are much more likely to respect each other’s contributions and communicate effectively. Look for the overarching goals that you and your co-workers or clients would like to reach; then use those goals to garner attention and remind people of what can be achieved when they effectively communicate across disciplines.

  4. Open and expand channels of communication. Too often, information isn’t shared simply because someone doesn’t know how. Make sure that you, as a communications professional, have opened every channel of communication possible by making your phone number, email address and other forms of contact available. Create an employee database that each employee can access in order to see contact information for other employees. Also consider implementing the use of a group messaging app that allows for quick communication across teams or divisions within the organization.

  5. Stand your ground as an important part of the organization. It’s easy to fall into the trap of downplaying your role as a communicator. It’s important to remember that every member of an organization has an undeniable purpose, whether his or her job is to build the fastest car or to draft a press release about it. Emphasize your competency and the necessity of your work with numbers, charts and research that show the benefits communications activities provide. When you prove that your work matters, it is a guarantee that your voice will be heard. 

By Bethany Corne, Vice-President of Finance

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