Let’s start 2017 with one good New Year’s resolution: let’s be friends!

I’m not suggesting some kind of universal world peace—that would be nice, but I just can’t go there right now. But let’s look across the aisle a little more locally: inside our own organizations.

If you spend your days putting words to paper—or screen—next to beautiful images to tell your organization’s story, then you fall into one of two departments: marketing communications or advancement communications. I would put money on it that no matter what camp you are parked in, you just now—consciously or subconsciously—squared your shoulders, puffed yourself up and proclaimed yourself to be in the more important—read: better!—side.


Maybe it’s human nature to need a rival because our culture is full of them: Army v Navy; Ohio State v University of Michigan (GO BUCKS!!); the Hatfields v the McCoys; Jets v Sharks; GOP v Democrats; Coke v Pepsi.

And up there with the best of them is the rivalry between an organization’s main communications departments—the team that speaks to the general public and the media— v the team that speaks to donors and alumni.

I’ve been on both sides of this division and I have made mistakes and had successes working with my counterparts in the other camp.

I know from experience we can work together. We just have to begin to try.

In the first of what I hope will become a series of posts throughout the year, I will dive into this discord between the two groups with the goal of offering insights and perspectives, advice and tips, and eventually even new ways of working that can harmonize rivals—if not as friends, then at least as collaborative colleagues.

Part 1: Bow to your Partner

 In a square dance, two paired dancers stand opposite one another and begin with a bow. The bow is a sign of respect for one another and an acknowledgement about the role each is about to play.

What follows is an intricate series of steps, turns, and swirls in response to a caller’s directions and in coordination with three sets of partners following the same instructions.

As everyone moves about, each individual and each couple must do their part to maintain the integrity of the square so everyone doesn’t crash into one another and so the dance keeps going.

Sometimes each individual is paired with someone she knows and likes. Sometimes she promenades with a stranger. But each dancer must keep moving and trust and respect that every other dancer in the square will do the same. That’s how it works.

And smile and have fun while doing it!

Be like a square dancer

Begin your workday (or even your work week) by bowing to your partner. Likely you won’t do this literally. But you can emotionally, mentally, start your day with even the slightest tilting of your head toward the person in your position on the other side. Acknowledge and respect that they have a job to do, too, and that they are personally committed to doing it well, just like you are.

The other value in acknowledging your opposing partner’s place in this dance is that you also can begin to recognize common ground between yourself and them: you and they both have jobs that exist solely for the purpose of making an organization look good and be successful. And you both share communications as the vehicle for accomplishing that.

You both care about your organization. You want it to succeed. And pencil and paper are the tools for success you both share. Recognizing that you actually need one another is the first step toward keeping the square from collapsing.

Do-si-do your partner.

Let’s begin with that. For now.