Company leaders often see the end of Q3 as a chance to define the strategy for the year ahead, often with a focus on numbers or the bottom line. Communication strategies often don’t get the attention they deserve in this process. At Tschida Communications, we've seen the critical role that proactive, intentional communication plays in shaping a company's success for the following year.
Proactive, intentional communication can help your company to:
Identify business challenges. The need to begin communicating more intentionally with one or more of your audiences can come from a variety of places. Many of the companies we partner with have grown exponentially in recent years, resulting in the CEO no longer knowing every employee’s name and story, or the media taking newfound interest that the organization doesn’t know how to deal with. We’ve seen a rise in safety incidents reveal a communication breakdown on a plant floor, and an impending executive change require careful, coordinated planning for how to inform internal and external audiences.
Bottom line: when you think about the business problems you face, you may not realize they can be greatly improved with clear, effective communication, but it’s a critical component to address your challenges.
Recognize your stage on the journey. Most companies looking for professional communication support are on a broader journey that they may not fully grasp: they’re in the process of Professionalizing in many areas*. To keep scaling and winning, they’re identifying the need to put processes and systems in place to manage their activities.
Professionalization is an important moment to understand in a company’s journey, so that it can be communicated effectively. This period often involves a cultural shift that employees and even their clients can feel. The companies we partner with need to balance the tension of infusing elements like accountability, performance and agility into their culture, ideally without alienating long-tenured employees or customers who often say they value “softer” company attributes like a family feel, loyalty and flexibility. Whether it’s policies that feel more rigid than they have in the past or new processes that require people to jump through more hoops than normal, your audience will experience a difference in how your company interacts with them. It’s important to help them understand that as you’re Professionalizing, you’re laying the foundation to continue to grow, and that can’t happen without some change.
Articulate the strategy. Only 5% of U.S. employees understand their company’s strategy**, meaning they’re not all working toward the same goals, and they’re certainly not telling a consistent story to your customers. Before effective communication can happen, your strategy must be clearly articulated. This sounds obvious, but so many of our clients – large and small – initially don’t have a concise, clear strategy that they consistently share with internal and external stakeholders. Once that’s in place, it’s far easier to connect various news and developments from the company to the broader message about where you’re headed, enabling the company to demonstrate continual progress against those goals.
Think about the broader value you provide. Many companies focus on the most literal aspects of what they do. “We sell employee benefits.” “We manufacture gears.” “We provide back-office payment technology.” While it’s critical to be clear about what you actually create for the world, don’t miss the opportunity to talk about the higher-level value your company enables. The employee benefits company enables its clients to put their values into action in how they treat their employees. The gear manufacturer enables end users of its products to operate them safely. The payments company strengthens relationships between payers and payees so they can grow their respective businesses.
Communication helps you identify the broader value your company provides and continually reinforce it in your messaging. Never talk about your specific products or services without connecting them to the value they create. It’s the best way to fight back against commoditization, which many companies are battling these days.
Understand that communication equals leadership. Leaders at all levels are a company’s primary communicators, whether they realize it or not. In fact, 45% of a company’s reputation can be attributed to the reputation of its leaders, and that correlation is only expected to get stronger.*** Despite that, many companies don’t create an expectation that leaders focus on communication, and don’t provide the time and space or the tools to support leaders in communicating a consistent message, internally or externally. Even simple approaches – like providing advance notice to leaders of upcoming news and enabling them to ask questions and share their objections before having to carry forward the messages themselves – can go a long way toward making leaders feel confident and equipped to embody their roles as communicators.
Effective communication can make a significant impact on the performance of your business. As you consider what will make your company most successful in 2024 and beyond, we urge you to prioritize building relationships with those who matter to your success through proactive, intentional communication.
Let us partner with you to bring this to life – give us some information on your current communication practices via a quick chat (schedule here), and we’ll provide you with quick wins and longer-term opportunities to improve how you engage with your stakeholders.
*Growing Pains by Dr. Eric Flamholtz & Yvonne Randle
**The Strategy Focused Organization by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton