Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Communications Strategy Revisited: Practical Tips For 'Corporateville'





Editor's note:


This post, originally written on February 23, 2013, was revised in 2017 for relevance and impact.



Let's go back to the very beginning. To my first blog post of March 2012  whereby  I coined a definition for a communications strategy:



"A communications strategy could loosely be defined as a standardised system of information flow easily disseminated to relevant stakeholders."



A definition  was necessary  in order to gain a better understanding of the concept. Armed with a clear definition, we could proceed to explore the usefulness of the communications strategy.



A good communications strategy should be 'standardised' in such a way that when a certain rule is used in its formulation, it becomes adaptable and applicable in different organisations or sectors. It shouldn't be a collation of random pieces of information tied together without aforethought. The most important goal of an effective communications strategy should be clarity of purpose; stakeholders must understand it and be ready to take the desired action.





The communications strategy proposed by the Rethinking Business Communications Blog (the RBCB Communications Strategy) is useful when introducing new concepts or implementing change initiatives in an organisation. It's also important when writing reports because of its focus on clarity. 



What distinguishes the RBCB Communications Strategy from others is simple: it comprises six components which must all be visible and must all be connected. These components, when taken together, create the 'standardisation' of the concept. 


They are:


I)  The "What".


This refers to the key plan/project that the organisation seeks to highlight throughout the year -  the 'desired good'.

It could also refer to the key message that the organisation wants to convey or the change initiative that it wishes to implement.



II) The "Why".

This refers to the rationale, reason or justification for the implementation of the ‘desired good’.




III) The "Who".


These are the key people who are responsible for the success of the 'desired good'.



IV) The "How".

This refers to the actions, both strategic and operational, that are to be undertaken towards achieving the 'desired good'.





V) The "When/How Long".


This outlines the proposed timeline, from inception to completion.



VI) The "Crisis-Mode Plan".


This refers to the contingency plan---for instance, the steps/alternative routes to be undertaken---in the event of unforeseen circumstances that sabotage or negatively impact 'the desired good’.





These components answer the most critical questions about a plan/project/initiative. Nothing is more frustrating than reading about grandiose plans by management when such considerations are poorly addressed.




The RBCB Communications Strategy should be used by all professionals who are seeking to influence people, or by those who are required to implement changes in the organisation. 



For example, if a top executive fails to incorporate the six components that would help him disseminate important information in a simple and clear manner, then his ineffective communication skills have rendered him unable to garner the collective action required for the success of the initiative he champions.





Practical applications of the RBCB Communications Strategy in Corporateville  


Even the most impressive theoretical framework of the Communications Strategy would be pointless unless it could be used.




















In the business world or corporateville, it's important to effectively communicate for positive results in employee engagement, which as research has shown, leads to high levels of trust in management and greater productivity. Therefore, professionals in charge of internal communications who adopt the Strategy will be better positioned to influence favourable attitudinal and behavioural outcomes inside the organisation. 



Similarly, using the Strategy with sincere, transparent messaging will enhance the external image of the company, thereby boosting its reputation as a trustworthy organisation.



Nonetheless, the usefulness of the RBCB Communications Strategy isn't  limited to the corporate communications segment. All professionals, by virtue of their changing environments and in view of the present information age, are required to be proactive in their roles by communicating masterfully. To be perceived as credible and knowledgeable people, they must ensure that their messages are simple, relevant, consistent and flexible.





1) Keeping the communications simple


Simplicity is power. 


Whether it's an organisation-wide memo, an email to colleagues in the company, a round-table discussion, or a press release: keep the messaging simple. You lose people if your purpose is unknown in ninety seconds, in less time if you're giving a speech. This corresponds to the "What" component.





2) Keep the communications relevant


Know your audience and stick to the reason for the meeting, discussion, or the deliberations. Bringing up the issue of how official stationery is constantly inadequate is irrelevant in a sales strategy meeting, even as a response to the prompt for questions. Concentrate on the rationale, the reason or the purpose for the communication. In other words, highlight the "Why" component.







3) Keep the communications consistent


This tip is closely linked to feedback. Note that the lack of timely and factual feedback is linked to the culture in the wider environment.


The dearth of good feedback is also unfortunately associated with the why-should-I-go-out-of-my-way attitude. It doesn't seem to matter that such an attitude conveys a lack of professionalism. Withholding feedback is counter-productive because it stalls progress.




Choosing competent people to keep the communications consistent via feedback channels displays transparency, (and by extension, trust), which leads to wide acceptance. This corresponds to the "Who" component.



Furthermore, using the appropriate methods, tools, technology, etc. to update, review or re-align communications for the purpose for which they are required, is what the "How" component clarifies.




4) Keep the communications flexible


Circumstances change; goals are re-examined; and projects are sometimes shelved. Communications should thus be flexible. 



For instance, management had stated that in X month, a new compensation package would be introduced and would be tested for one year, (corresponding to the "When/How Long" component). This however does not mean that such a plan is set in stone. 




There must also be a consideration of risks.





For example, there could be operational losses due to circumstances such as a natural disaster, a morale crisis, or a bad economy. These situations call for flexibility and swift action. As a minimum requirement, a contingency plan should have been established, as part of the business strategy, to be activated when the need arises. Indeed, a whole crisis-management system should be established and tested regularly so that it's  ready for use.




To put this recommendation into context:




You're unlikely to drill for oil in a remote region with a history of civil disturbances without having a plan for the shutdown of operations and the evacuation of staff. You'd also ensure that you secure a supplementary budget to handle power outages, and/or vandalism of your company’s facilities. 



Similarly, you wouldn't ignore the need for back-up communication systems for support and direction from the headquarters, would you?


Exactly.



Moreover, to ensure safety and security on your facilities, you'd inaugurate a crisis-management team that would be regularly trained. This team would consist of skilled communicators/PR professionals, legal personnel, subject matter experts, as well as the security experts who'd be responsible for deploying the systems.



These points correspond to the final component, which is arguably the most important component in the RBCB Communications Strategy - the "Crisis-Mode Plan".






Conclusion




















The RBCB Communications Strategy isn't  simply an interesting theoretical framework with little practical purposes. By virtue of its six components, one seamlessly leading to the next, it's particularly helpful in the business world. This is because of the fact that it could be regarded as a ‘living’ template that could easily be customised for different scenarios. 



The Strategy could also be used in report writing because it will ensure the completeness of documents. The reports will thus address key concerns and highlight strong calls-to-action. Given that clarity of purpose will be evident, such reports  will lead to quick acceptance and speedier results.




To illustrate its practical uses, I recommend the 3-Step Rule.


          
                    Challenge  for   Management: 



The  3-Step  Rule  of  the  Communications Strategy


1) Draw up a  Communications Strategy for a key initiative/idea/plan you're seeking to implement, ensuring that all six components are addressed. You might wish to supplement text with visuals such as graphics or images for a greater impact.


2) Circulate it at regular intervals, throughout the duration of the initiative, via the intranet, on notice boards, on the company's blog etc.


3) Measure its impact via appropriate tools and share the results.



Perhaps company-wide acceptance of the initiative  would become evident in the enthusiastic participation from staff.


Perhaps many useful suggestions would be made which would lead to the project’s success...



Then kindly contact me.





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N.B Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

7 comments:

  1. Communication is really important in business even in other aspect of life it is important.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My sentiments exactly!

    Thanks for dropping by.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The way that one convinces others is very important in any kind of business. It is important to get more clients and customers for the business.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for your comment.

    And I agree. That is why the Communications Strategy is so important to the bottom line.

    Hopefully Management would realise that using an effective Communications Strategy would
    increase their influencing skills.

    Why doesn't your company try the 3-Step Rule for better effectivenes?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Angela Esiwe (via LinkedIn)23 May 2013 at 16:50

    Great piece just catching up on this blog from Feb 2013.

    This version "Communication Revisited..." is as good or even better than your first piece. The buzz words simple, relevant, consistency gets the message across. Flexibility with changing times can be hard in established businesses. More so if one is set in ones way but is necessary in present time....

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Angela for taking out the time to read the article. It is my hope that Management adopts the 3-Step Rule to ensure greater business performance.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Power to convince is really important. This post is really covering good points.

    ReplyDelete

We know you have opinions. Kindly post your comments.