Meet Your Maker(s): How Communicators Can Work With Operations

September 13, 2021

Critical Takeaways

  • The two fundamental roles in American corporations are makers – such as operations – and sellers – like communications. It’s essential to maintain a direct linkage between the two as they work better together. 
  • When working with operations, communicators usually fall short in three areas: meeting the operations team too late, going into training exercises ill-prepared, and being too influenced by critics. 
  • A solution to filling gaps within your organization is a tabletop exercise so each party can better understand what the other needs. The more engaging the training, the more valuable it’ll be. 

The two fundamental roles in American corporations are makers and sellers. Makers would comprise the operations team, whereas sales and communications would be classed as sellers. It’s critical to maintain a direct linkage between the two as they work better together. 

But don’t wait until you’re in the thick of an event to have ice breakers with your counterparts from other departments. 

Instead, you need to get to know these other teams well in advance of things going wrong. This can start with introductory calls or informal meetings over coffee and develop into more formal sessions to discuss how each team would approach a crisis.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case, and these relationships are often overlooked, leaving the teams in their silos. However, you can quickly build good relationships with operations if you keep these three rules in mind.

  • Beware of the mindset, “We meet operations when we need them”: The idea that communicators should only meet operations when there’s a crisis is dangerous. Both parties should establish a rapport beforehand and, at minimum, discuss risks that can affect them both. Building relationships early helps get everyone working together and off of ‘silo island.’ Moreover, when a challenge arises and things start to move fast, this prep work buys you vital time to slow down and ask critical questions.


  • There’s no such thing as “too busy”: Sometimes, communicators feel their peers in operations are too busy to invest in building a relationship, but this is rarely true. However, you’ve set aside time to work with operations, avoid walking into the meeting with nothing but a blank sheet of paper: make sure you aren’t squandering anyone’s time. Instead, come prepared with prior research, so you already have some framework set up. This approach is more thoughtful and will encourage collaboration between both parties.


  • Don’t get too deep, too early: When under fire, I find that communicators can take critics’ requests too seriously. Lean on industry experts and focus on public perception, but also trust your knowledge and skills: take confidence in your abilities and judgment. Being able to distinguish the important from the urgent will save you countless hours of time and energy.  

The best way we’ve found to build these relationships is a tabletop exercise so each party can better understand what the other needs. I recommend doing this before a crisis hits, as it’s a great way to meet and interact with your colleagues. Consider having someone from the operations side act as a jargon translator to help mediate conversations between both groups. The more people who can engage, the more valuable the exercise will be.

However you build these relationships, the important thing is that you develop them in advance: don’t meet your opposite number from operations for the first time when the crisis team convenes. 

Building these relationships helps you coordinate with the other teams more effectively. You’ll all be better able to serve your organization when you understand the perspectives of the others in the room. This way, even though makers and sellers might be wired differently, these relationships and the mutual understanding they build will help you align so your response is cohesive, coordinated, and fast.


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.