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‘Communication is key…’ by Sarah Norris

Sarah Norris‘Communication is key;’ how often have we heard this in our organisational briefings, at project meetings, even out of the mouths of politicians? Well in the case of the 4C Project communication is not just key, but critical to its success.

The project has been classified as a ‘co-ordinated support action’ and as such fundamentally relies on effective communication with our stakeholders, with the EC and with each other, to make sure the support we end up providing is at all useful to those who need it.

As a manager of proposal projects across international borders, I know how important this is, however tempting it might be to get your head down and just ‘do it yourself.’ The danger with this approach is, not only do the project partners end up working in silos, but, as my 4C colleague Kathrine Hougaard pointed out in her blog post earlier this month, your project results in a set of deliverables you think is fantastic…but is no good to anyone else.

We need to make sure therefore, that we keep coming up from our little hives of industry, to check in with our project team mates, with the EC and most importantly with our stakeholders to make sure we are working effectively and in a truly ‘co-ordinated’ fashion.

Prompting us to do this is our 4C Project Communications Plan which outlines a series of co-ordinated communications activities and their timings, and will be implemented in line with its deliverable date at the end of June.  Developed collaboratively, this document will provide guidelines for communications with our stakeholders, the EC and between 4C project team members.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw however, ‘the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ Not wanting to fall into the position where we congratulate ourselves warmly for following the plan to the letter, communicating enthusiastically and with great co-ordination, but failing to actually ‘say’ anything, the Plan also outlines key messages the project hopes to convey, and perhaps most importantly, suggests measures of effectiveness which periodically take stock of our efforts and make sure they are hitting the mark.

Having said all this, we also appreciate that the 4C Project Communications Plan is no Bible. It is not fixed and absolute; it moves with the times; it is a living, interactive document that will be updated to reflect what we learn from listening to our stakeholders. After all, communication is key, and we don’t want to leave our stakeholders locked out with nowhere to go.

Sarah Norris, Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC)

Sarah and the DPC are contributors to the 4C Project work package “Engagement,” developing The Project Communications Plan and other communications deliverables which will enable two way interaction between the project and its wide range of stakeholders.