“Communication is the center of everything. You can’t execute strategy if you can’t communicate about it.” -Vice President of FedEx Services, T. Michael Glenn.
Since its conception, strategic communications has grown into an integral part of marketing. In recent years, with the introduction of the Internet, a wealth of information can be made readily available to consumers in an instant. Because of this, strategic communication has shifted from its previous position as a helpful marketing tool, to an essential one.
It is increasingly important for businesses to clearly communicate their values and purpose through strategic communication.
However with this being said, first we need to fully understand what strategic communication is.
Strategic communication can be defined simply as communication that is aligned with a company’s overall strategy in order to enhance its strategic positioning. This means when communicating strategically with an audience, the message must consistently communicate what companies wish to share internally and externally in a way that shapes the conversation, in order to receive desired results.
Strategic communication is an invaluable tool for membership growth and success, if utilized effectively. Below are tips on how to implement a strategic communication plan that will help your business succeed.
Tips to Successful Strategic Communication
Be Honest with Your Audience
Telling the truth is even more important in business today than ever before due to the wealth of information that consumers can find in an instant online. However, according to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, Trust levels in business decreased in 16 of 27 countries and the majority of these countries are now below 50 percent with regard to trust in business. These statistics show how often businesses neglect to earn the trust of their consumers.
Transparency is key when communicating strategically. Successful business owners are the ones that are truthful and therefore trustworthy in the eyes of their customers. “Being on message is critical,” according to executive vice president and CFO of the New York Times Co., Leonard Forman, “but it has to be based on something real.”
Having integrity when communicating is the crucial to gaining trust from consumers. Being honest with consumers not only refers to marketing a product. It is also crucial to be honest and responsible when addressing issues or crises that may arise within your company.
Repeat Your Message as Often as Possible
Repetition is crucial to communicating strategically. An organization’s intended message gains clarity the more it is affirmed. According Russell Lewis, former president and CEO of the New York Times “You almost can’t communicate a message frequently enough, particularly to the employees.”
As stated in a previous blog of mine about employee engagement, ensuring that employees understand the organization’s mission is key to successfully engaging them. The same is true for strategic communication.
Proposals, press releases, and social media sites and all other messages within the company must communicate the same message in order to succeed. Establishing a clear message and repeating it frequently will reinforce its importance and help achieve successful strategic communication.
Where to Place Your Message
Creating precise and distinct messages for different audiences is key to successful communication. Consumers are highly exposed to the media and have a seasoned understanding of where and how to find information. In order to communicate strategically with these consumers, messages need to be channeled into the correct platform.
For example, when targeting a younger audience, social media marketing can be used to deliver messages. Similarly, other traditional forms of marketing can be used to communicate to other groups. With so many outlets on the Internet and in the workplace, communicating your message strategically through specific outlets that harmonize with one another is increasingly more and more important. Although different messages need to be communicated in different ways, all strategic communication needs to remain integrated.
Former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins says, “Which elements of the overall strategy do you want to discuss with each constituent? The communication function breaks strategy into pieces and sells the right pieces to the right audience.” All of the separate messages sent to specific audiences are a part of a single message delivered in different ways.
Strategic communication is most effective when there is a long-term implementation plan in place. According to The Strategic Imperative, “It has been suggested that the most enduring companies are those that focus on the long-term, have a strong set of values and are proactive rather than reactive in communicating.” When communicating strategically, it is always important to think about the future rather than the here-and-now.
Higher-level employees as well as C-level leaders should fully understand the long-term plan and integrate it into their strategy as a whole. Companies often have long-term marketing plans, and therefore must also think about how they want to convey messages internally and externally looking forward.
Be Open to Receiving Feedback
Lastly, after strategically communicating with an audience, it is extremely important to ask for internal and external feedback. No one likes being criticized. However, constructive criticism can help to determine the overall success (or lack-there-of) of the communication strategy.
Giving and receiving feedback on strategic communication helps businesses to establish the links between a their intangible assets and overall performance. Receiving feedback can only lead to improvement and successful communication in the future.
Strategic communication is no longer just a relatively helpful tool in sending a message to consumers. Strategic communication is a necessity to shaping messages and achieving success in business. Strategic communication is most effective if messages are honest and repeated frequently. Companies need to send their messages out through the most effective channels and must have a long-term plan in place to do so.
There is no way to improve upon a message if there is no chance for feedback. Feedback leads to improvement in the future and success for the company overall. According to founder, chairman and CEO of Cognex Corp., Bob Shillman, “communication is not a separate function. It’s hard to separate it out. It’s like my car. What’s the most important part? An engine can’t get you anywhere without the wheels. It all has to be integrated.” All of the different ‘parts’ of strategic communication make up a much bigger machine that if used correctly, can shape messages that lead to great innovation and success.
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