Every business communicates in some fashion. Some do it consciously, others by the seat of the pants. Some do it well, some are challenged. The key to it all? A solid communications strategy.
A well-thought-out, written communications policy can help turn your business goals into reality. You need to let key audiences know that you exist, what you do, and what you want them to do.
Why take a strategic approach to your communications situation? The benefits are many. Here is but a handful:
- Shinier reputation
- Better environment for your industry
- Improved relationships with clients, customers, members, and vendors
- Higher worker morale
- Boosted stock price for public companies
- Friendlier government regulation
Developing and implementing a professional development program that can truly foster communications skills matters. Yours might look something like this, a format based on Sandra M. Oliver’s Handbook of Corporate Communication and Public Relations:
Phase one: Assess your existing communications capabilities. This where you gauge your true capabilities. Consider a series of questions. Be tough and realistic. Is your current staff up to the task? To what extent do you need to work on obtaining C-suite buy in? What about your messaging; is it first-rate or are you starting from ground zero? How does that messaging align with your company’s overall business and public policy goals?
Phase two: Test your messaging to see if stands up to the heat in the hottest kitchen. Schedule a series of workshops designed to help your spokespeople internalize and verbalize your messages, and to ramp up their communications skills. These workshops should cover all of the critical areas: Dealing with the media; delivering presentations to a variety of audiences; and dealing with federal, state, and local policymakers. Also during this phase, develop your communications plan.
Phase three: Assess how your communications efforts connect to your business plan. Establish ongoing feedback processes. Without mechanisms that tell you how you’re performing, you’ll be flying blind. Be sure your processes are written. Distribute them among all of your spokespeople and gain their explicit assent. In phase three, you will also continue the workshops you initiated in the last phase, starting more colleagues on the program and moving those who’ve already begun into more advanced learning. Finally, measure your results with an emphasis on how your program is impacting your bottom line, both financially and reputationally, and to what degree it is helping you achieve your business and public policy goals.
It’s important to build your strategy around those goals. Otherwise, it’s meaningless.
This article is an excerpt adapted from Ed Barks’ forthcoming book, A+ Strategies for C-Suite Communications: Turning Today’s Leaders into Tomorrow’s Influencers. Barks, an IOM faculty member, works with communications and government relations executives who counsel their C-suite leaders, and with businesses and associations that need their messaging to deliver bottom line results. He is President of Barks Communications, author of The Truth About Public Speaking: The Three Keys to Great Presentations, and a member of the National Press Club Board of Governors. Visit www.barkscomm.com to learn more, and contact Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 955-0600.