Monthly Archives: July 2017

How Strategic Communications Can Generate Maximum Business Impact

Strategic messaging is a communication method many marketers, advertisers and other external communicators will sing the praises of the second you give them the chance. And there are good reasons why.

Here’s an excerpt from The Routledge Handbook of Strategic Communication, a textbook communications graduate students often use, that gets to the heart of it:

An effective communication manager must engage with multiple interactants (i.e. consumers, publics, audiences) and should, therefore, understand how different interactants require different strategic messaging approaches. This is the unique domain of strategic communications.

To put it in less academic terms, not every audience is going to engage with every type of message, so messages must be tailored to target audiences. They can’t be one-size-fits-all. Strategic messaging is all about getting the right message in front of the right people at just the time they need to receive it.

That doesn’t just go for external communicators. Numerous different audiences reside within an organization, and a human resources manager may find a particular type of message compelling, while an IT architect may respond to a totally different method of communication.

Just like the goal of external communications is to generate awareness and positive feelings about a company or product, the goal of internal communications is often to create shared goals and a community culture within an organization. But you can’t tell everyone the same story the same way.

In a post on his consulting firm’s blog, communications expert David Grossman lays out seven keys to a strategic messaging methodology:

  1. Define and prioritize audiences
  2. Identify where those audiences are coming from
  3. Develop compelling messages
  4. Outline what you want from your audiences
  5. Make connections with your audiences
  6. Deliver messages with confidence
  7. Identify gaps in your plan

Grossman goes on to lay out a long list communications tools that could be used to implement such a plan including email, voicemail, speeches, brochures, social media posts, website copy, and so on. Communications managers should keep all these tools at the ready so they’ll have them on-hand when they recognize an audience for whom one tool might be preferable to another.

Many organizations take a scattershot approach to communication, and as such, much of the effort is wasted. Taking a little more time to strategically target messages to the people who are most receptive to them will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.

To find out more about how internal communicators are messaging to employees, download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

When Practical Communications Trump the Bleeding Edge

By Michael DesRochers, Managing Director at PoliteMail

I spend a lot of time talking with communicators in large organizations. They are usually time and resource strapped and have large, nebulous objectives to meet, such as “increase employee engagement,” while at the same time running numerous communicators programs. They are writing executive messaging, producing stories and content for company news, and delivering HR and benefits information to vast numbers of employees.

Recently, I was interviewed by HR Examiner’s lead analyst, John Sumser, and walked him through the capabilities of PoliteMail. John led off by saying, “Email is dead to me.” That wasn’t surprising. As a reporter who writes about the bleeding edge of technology, he doesn’t work in a large corporate office and spends most of his time communicating with and writing about the dreamers pushing the next shiny new thing.

Fortunately, John is a smart, polite gentleman who is willing to check his rear-view mirror while driving forward. Chances are, John still checks his inbox and sends email like the rest of us. 

What corporate communicators want is to write something once, publish it everywhere and reach everyone in their target audience. Yes, they need to communicate where the audience is.  We all know multi-tasking millennials dis email and flit from Facebook to Instagram and, as independents or small work groups, are Slackers.  These new communications tools may or may not last, but they certainly do not have the breadth of employee reach most corporate executives demand.

If you want to reach all your employees with an important strategic message from the CEO, what is the fastest, easiest and most effective way to do so? What communication tools do all employees already use, and which require no training or much in the way of technical skills?

The answer is email, and for the majority of corporations, Microsoft Outlook in particular. There is a reason that Facebook and LinkedIn use email to communicate with their own users, and loop them back onto the platform. There is a reason for the growing push-back against Slack as creating a multitude of inboxes instead of just one. 

Corporations today struggle even with reaching non-desk employees on their mobile devices. Hundreds of start-ups are publishing new mobile apps, which communicators and employees will have to learn and adopt, and which often cost more than simply giving non-desk workers their own company email address. There is a reason the most popular iPhone app is email: we all get and check email on our mobile devices. We might text subsets of people, and regularly check our LinkedIn messaging, but we all have email and use it every day.

Anyone working inside the enterprise will realize email is far from dead, and with Office365, is actually evolving at a rapid pace. Certainly more and more people access email via mobile, and Outlook and Office are already there. Office is the corporate communications platform, Outlook is the hub, and SharePoint is the newsroom and archive. New, email integrated social, video and workflow tools are arriving daily inside Office365.

John, and others who have their eyes on the next shiny thing, can rest assured knowing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics will be coming to email sooner than they might realize.  Anyone else notice how very effective the Outlook Clutter folder is at reducing unwanted email?

 

 

9 Best Practices for Executive and Leadership Communication

For some executives, communication is an afterthought, or even a “necessary evil.” A Harvard Business Review/Harris poll found that a staggering 91 percent of U.S. workers see communication issues as a major hindrance for business leaders.

Thriving organizations have open lines of communication at all levels, including at the top. According to research conducted by the Project Management Institute, leaders who are effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than those who are minimally effective. Likewise, better communication means fewer company dollars are put at risk.

What can leaders and top corporate communicators do to ensure that executives are communicating effectively? Here are nine best practices, as laid out by communication experts, researchers and successful executives themselves:

1. Foster a culture of communication.

In a post on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School’s website, communications expert Walter G. Montgomery writes, “It’s important for everyone to know that the CEO takes communications very seriously.” When everyone within an organization understands that communication is a key value—not just an afterthought—everyone will be more willing to listen and engage.

2. Don’t be afraid of training.

Montgomery adds that top executives should “insist on training initiatives to ensure people have the ability to carry out their communications duties effectively.” Those training mandates should apply to executives themselves.

3. Be crystal clear.

Employees are busy, which means they don’t have time to do detective work to figure out what an executive speech or email means. Dispense with meaningless platitudes and jargon. Say what you mean and let employees know in clear language what you want them to do.

4. Don’t just be a cheerleader.

The Institute for Public Relations suggests that employees today are looking for ways to demonstrate their “ethic of contribution” to go above and beyond normal job performance, so challenge them to achieve; don’t just point to what they’ve done.

5. Have a common goal in mind.

Everyone within and organization should be working toward the same thing, and it’s up to executives to make that goal apparent. The American Management Association’s David Hassell puts it this way: “When employees operate at cross purposes, communication is critical in setting things straight.”

6. Speak in your own voice.

Employees want to hear from a person. They don’t want canned, committee-written edicts. “The lower your pedestal, the more they’ll rally behind you,” Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work told Inc.

7. Engage in a dialogue.

Communication doesn’t end when you send your email or give your speech. Hassell writes, “Meet the enthusiastic sharing of ideas, insights, and concerns with positive reinforcement, never reproach, no matter how critical.”

8. Take a multi-pronged approach.

Different employees want different things when it comes to communication. Some may prefer face-to-face interaction with a manager, others may prefer to read messages in newsletters or other company-wide emails. Still others may look to the company intranet. Craft versions of your key messages to cater to all the audiences within your organization to ensure everyone is on the same page.

9. Measure your results.

The Institute for PR insists that “best in class companies relentlessly track strategies, tactics and channels.”

Want to know more about what works and what doesn’t in the world of internal communications? Download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.