Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Communications Strategy Revisited: Practical Tips For 'Corporateville'



 

Let's go back to the very beginning. To  my first blog post of March 2012  whereby given the endless sea of cyber definitions, I coined a definition for a communications strategy.




For new readers of my blog, I would recap:



 
"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 a certain rule should be used in its formulation, so that it can be widely accepted, adaptable and applicable in different organisations or sectors. It should not be a collation of random pieces of information thrown together without much thought. The most important goal of an effective communications strategy should be clarity of purpose; it must be understood by the stakeholders.




What distinguishes my 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 basic questions that we tend to ask when learning about a plan/project/initiative. There is nothing more annoying than reading about grandiose plans by Management when such basic questions are left unanswered. Often, we do not have access to the relevant company official for further information or clarifications and quite frankly, the average person cannot be bothered. So if you, as the corporate communications professional, fail to incorporate the six components which would help you  disseminate the  information in a simple and clear manner, well you have failed indeed in your core function.




‘Corporateville'


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

 






















In the business world, which I would dub 'Corporateville', it is important to  effectively communicate for best results. Communications specialists thus need to work smarter and not necessarily harder. It is crucial that professionals in charge of internal communications, as well as those who handle external communications, (often tied to managing the corporate reputation/image, corporate branding etc.), should take note of some practical tips. 

 

They should:
 

1) Keep the communications simple


I have always emphasised the need for the Communications Strategy to be made simple. Simplicity is power. Whether it is an organisation-wide memo, an email to a few people in the company, a round-table discussion or a press release: keep it simple. You lose people if your purpose is not known in ninety seconds, in less time if you are 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, for the discussion or for the deliberations. Bringing up the issue of how official stationary is constantly inadequate is completely irrelevant in a sales strategy meeting, even as a response to the "any questions?" prompting. Concentrate on the rationale, the reason or the purpose. In other words, highlight the "Why" component.

 


 
 
3) Keep the communications consistent 
 

This tip is  closely linked  to feedback. I  have  come  to  realise that  the lack of  feedback  is somewhat  linked to the culture in  the wider environment, not  just  in  'Corporateville'. 


It  is  also unfortunately associated with the ‘why-should-I-go-out-of-my-way’ attitude. It doesn't seem to matter that this attitude conveys a lack of professionalism. Withholding feedback is unhelpful to anyone.

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

 
Using 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, projects are sometimes shelved. It is thus essential for communications to be seen as flexible. Even though Management has stated that in X month, a new compensation package would be introduced and tested for one year, (corresponding to the "When/How Long" component), does not mean that this plan is set in stone.


What if something goes wrong? There could be operational losses due to extenuating  circumstances such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, a morale crisis or a bad economy. These situations call for flexibility and prompt action. At the very least, a contingency plan should have been established, as part of the business strategy, to be activated when the need arises. In fact, a whole crisis-management system should be established and tested, ready to be utilised.


Let’s put this into context - you would not go drilling for oil in a remote region with a history of civil unrests, without having a plan for the shut-down of operations and evacuation of staff, would you?


Neither would you forget to secure a supplementary budget to handle power outages and/or vandalism of your company’s facilities.


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

Exactly.

 
You would also need to inaugurate a crisis-management team which must be regularly trained and which should consist of skilled communicators/PR professionals, subject matter experts and security experts to deploy the systems.

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

 



Conclusion

















 




It is clear that the Communications Strategy is not simply a 'nice-to-know' theoretical framework with little practical purposes. By virtue of its six components, one seamlessly leading to the next, it is very useful indeed, especially in 'Corporateville'. This is because of the fact that it could be regarded as a standard 'template'  that could easily be customised to specific requirements.

 

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 are 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 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

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