How and Why to Hire a Communications Consultant
You might have the best service or product in the industry and an equally stellar brand image – but if you don’t know how to tell your story and communicate with your audience – how is anyone supposed to know what makes you special?
With that said, a clear and engaging communication strategy should not be exclusive to reaching your external audience – it’s also is important to prioritize internal communications. Doing so helps create and improve the connection between your employees and your organization’s vision and values.
How your company communicates with its audience on the outside and its employees on the inside is foundational to your organization’s overall success. As such, hiring a communications consultant might be just what you need to help take your business to the next level.
There are a variety of reasons you might look to a consultant for your communication needs instead of a full-time employee; your organization could be in the midst of a hiring freeze, your communication’s wizard might be on leave during a critical stretch, or perhaps your company is just getting started and you need help getting a communications strategy in order.
If you’re looking to hire a communications consultant, here are some tips to consider as you begin your search.
DETERMINE WHAT YOU NEED FROM A COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT
Before you officially start your search for a communications consultant it’s helpful to first evaluate your specific communications needs and goals. Do you need help with external or internal communications – or both?
Below are examples of some areas in which a communications consultant can help:
Big-picture communications strategy: This could include a mix of internal and external communications, and involve building a program from the ground up or overhauling an existing one. A consultant’s first step might be to perform a holistic big-picture audit of your organization’s approach to communications, identification of core communication needs, and to then develop a tailored strategy to meet your specific goals.
Executive thought leadership: A communications consultant can help you develop a strategic thought leadership program (or even ghostwrite certain pieces of content) to help you build and grow the reputations of key leaders, which will in turn boosts awareness and credibility around your organization and brand.
Content marketing strategy: This might include developing an editorial and promotion calendar for blog posts and articles or creating a strategy for email marketing campaigns and social media content. A communications consultant could be hired to develop a plan to be carried out by others or to help produce the actual marketing content material.
Public relations: Building relationships with media, industry publications and influencers in your field can take a lot of time and effort. And developing a message that will resonate with journalists and assignment editors as a worthy pitch – requires thoughtful curation. Oftentimes a communications consultant with experience in this field will already have established relationships with these sources and will know what to pitch to whom and how.
Crisis communications. Some communication consultants focus on PR crisis management. They can provide messaging guidance on how and when to share information with the public while protecting your organization’s reputation and best interests.
Internal communications: This could include general HR communications informing employees of key company updates, new hire announcements, and health and safety information. Or it might be higher-level executive messaging like CEO town hall presentations and quarterly KPI overviews. If your organization is experiencing a big transformation, a communications consultant could help with change management communications. Examples could include mergers, acquisitions, layoffs/hiring freezes, or changes in leadership.
Whether your needs are larger in scale or more specialized, a communications consultant can be hired to do high-level strategy or execution work such as writing white papers and speeches or creating PowerPoint pitch presentations and crafting press releases, and in some cases, a mix of both.
LOOK FOR A CONSULTANT WITH EXPERIENCE AND A STRONG REPUTATION
There are plenty of people out there today marketing themselves as communication experts, but not all communication consultants are created equally.
Seek out those who have experience specific to your needs. For example, if you need help with media relations, make sure that your communications consultant candidate has experience with media and public relations specifically. In addition to experience writing press releases, they should be able to demonstrate how the ideas they pitched led to positive media coverage, whether it be published articles, on-air spots, or interviews.
Once you have identified a pool of communication consultant candidates that match your needs, it’s time to start conducting interviews.
In search of a communications consultant?
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK CANDIDATES
Before you start the interview process, pull together a list of questions to ask all your potential candidates to better understand what value they could bring to your organization.
These questions should be tailored to your organization and your specific communication needs. They could include general queries as well as opportunities for candidates to talk about the value their work has provided to past clients and employers.
Some communication consultant interview questions to consider include:
- How would you help our company establish an impactful communications strategy that aligns with our overall business goals?
- If we bring you on board as a communications consultant, what would be the first step in your process?
- What is the most critical skill or trait for a communications consultant to possess?
- How would you describe your personal communications style?
- How do you tailor communications for target audiences?
- Aside from metrics identified by a client company, how do you measure your own success at the completion of a consulting project?
- What do you think is the most important goal of an internal communications strategy?
- Describe a situation in which you successfully coordinated a complex communications project. What made it a success?
- Have you ever had to deal with a challenging PR problem or crisis management? How did you handle the situation?
While the questions you ask of your communications consultant candidate are important, just as telling are the questions they ask of you. What they ask you can shed light on the level of dedication and interest the candidate has in your organization and your communication objectives. Above all, you want the communications consultant you hire to be an expert communicator and the interview process is your first chance to get some meaningful insights.
REVIEW PORTFOLIOS AND CASE STUDIES CAREFULLY
Next, it’s time to see what kind of work your communications consultant candidate has produced. This could include previous communication strategy kick-off presentations, press releases, editorial calendar plans, blog posts and newsletters, internal communication reports, and executive presentations just to name a few. If you see examples that pique your interest, ask the candidate questions about their process and the success of those projects.
While it’s helpful to see a range of work from the communication consultant candidate to better understand their range, pay close attention to examples that align with your particular needs.
Lastly, ask for several professional references you can contact so you can learn more about the working style and strengths of your communications consultant candidate.
HOW SIMPLICITY CAN HELP YOU HIRE A COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT
Simplicity has a long history of matchmaking clients with experts in Communications, Digital Marketing, and Program and Project Management. We have access to a wide array of communication gurus with varied specialties to help you with your most pressing communication needs.
Simplicity uses a high-touch and multipronged approach to ensure you find the right communications consultant for your team.
- We work together to help identify your organization’s specific communication needs
- We develop a project outline to make sure we find you a communications consultant with the skillset and experience needed to meet your objectives
- We develop a shortlist of consultants that best suit your needs based on your project outline and budget
- You pick your top communication consultant candidates and we then set up a working session to allow you to get a better feel for their strategic approach and working style
- We work with you to select the person who is the best fit for your organization
And it doesn’t stop there. Once you have chosen your communications consultant, we take over the heavy lifting of managing the consultant to ensure your business needs are being met. You’ll work with one of our dedicated client success managers to ensure satisfaction from the consulting engagement kickoff through the delivery of the final products.