Managing your annual internal communications budget successfully is a path to managing an overall communications budget. That’s because every budget makes evident how resources will be allocated throughout the year, and establishes a set of targets against which you’ll be evaluated for success. When you understand and manage your internal communications budget, you are demonstrating valuable skills that are needed to manage any budget. But sometimes budgets are not accessible to you. What do you do then?
Here’s what I mean: In some companies the internal communications budget is not broken out separately, but is part of a larger department budget, and as a result you can’t manage it. In other cases, companies shroud budget planning in layers of mystery. Or department heads hold internal comms line items as deep dark secrets.
If this is your environment, then sadly your understanding of budget goals and performance will be vague at best. You won’t have a clear grasp of how the internal communications practice is positioned to support key business strategies. Sure, you get some of that when it comes time to set annual goals or develop a communications project plans, but that’s several months later. By then you’ve missed an opportunity to gain insight into the annual budget, which in turn helps to clarify business priorities, which in turn helps YOU.
What to do, then, when you don’t manage the internal communications budget?
As a great communications leader used to tell me when I got frustrated at internal organizational issues, don’t get your knickers in a twist. (She was from Canada.) Some budget processes don’t allow for dissemination of the details. Accept it. You still have an opportunity to learn from your manager. Most managers will welcome a good conversation on key aspects of a budget, even when they’re not able to share the specific line items. In fact, they’ll be impressed that you care about an important responsibility that matters to them. Managers value strong team players on their side, as they cope with actuals and projections throughout the year.
So even if you can’t access an internal communications budget, have a conversation with your manager. If your manager isn’t sold on the idea, make the case that you’ll make life easier by being better equipped to meet the targets, and better prepared to handle ad hoc requests as they occur.
Budgeting is important. It will give you greater understanding of your company–knowledge that will help you be more successful in your organization, and is a key skill for a successful communications career.