Your communication people do it. Don't they? They're the ones who do the internal newsletter... provide content for the intranet... posters for the whatever... press releases for the PR agency walls, etc... Right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong! "Corporate Communication" - unpack the phrase and dig a little deeper. Logic tells me that corporate communication is really a function that belongs to the entire organisation and has to be adopted and applied by each and every employee. It's all about how the people in an organisation communicate with any of the various stakeholders: it's about a collective tone and messaging that stakeholders, at each level, either find the organisation credible and authentic, or inconsistent and confusing and therefore not to be trusted.
The question is, how do you develop a common language in a universal tone throughout a business? Well, it begins with understanding... and it ends with understanding (The middle require understanding as well, understanding what and how to DO it). Understand what communication is all about
- only 7% of any conversation is about the words used, 55% about the tone, and 38%, the visual clues. So, bearing those ratios in mind, no matter what words you use, the message will not necessarily be seen as authentic if your actions and reputational priorities don't back up those words. Understand that it is not a department function
- believe it or not, most organisations still leave the communication responsibility to a department of 2, 3 or perhaps 5 people on behalf of the entire community - in an organisation with a headcount of 5000! Among other tasks, such a department is expected to establish a framework in alignment with good governance as mentioned in KINGIII
and the AA1000SES; to ensure that messages are aligned with the organisation's strategic intent and culture; to provide a platform for credible and consistent messaging; and devise an interesting way of presenting these messages. But the department's function does not extend to disseminating the message. That responsibility lies initially with the stewards of the organisation. Once they're happy, the department then has to continue propagating the word to each and every person within the organisation.Understand it starts at the very Top, the Summit, the Ivory Tower
- an organisation's reputation isn't just the result of someone in the organisation having done something right... It's deliberate, it's planned. The board determines what they would like the organisation to be known for with each of its stakeholders; it determines what strategies need to be followed to deliver on the reputation; and then it determines what behaviours and messages need to be formulated in order to achieve the end goal. This planning is probably the single most important activity that needs to be undertaken in order to ensure that organisations have a real
differentiator and that brand value is achieved. Unfortunately, most organisations tend to wonder how the required profit margins are going to be met: smart organisations are well aware that profit margins are a spin-off from getting the differentiator and reputation right. Make no mistake, intangible asset value is fast becoming where the real money is made. The actual product or service itself is becoming a hygiene factor.Understand that it takes an entire community to spread the word, and that they need to have the skills to do it right
- it's no longer about what we do, it's all about who we are, and who we are is determined by HOW we do it. Ultimately, for every service and product you offer you can find two or three other organisations offering the same 'stuff'. It's how
that stuff is provided is what becomes the differentiator. That goes for receiving messages as well. How often have you heard the comment 'it's not what you said, it's how you said it'? Tone, tone, tone. The voice of an organisation has a tone when it delivers its service or product. This tone either builds or breaks down credibility, depending on how well it is aligned with the voice, the words.
Right alongside those are the visual clues: for example, if an organisation offers a service to organise your home, and you visit their offices only to find a topsy-turvy mess, would you hire them? Of course you wouldn't. So who are the owners of the tone and visual clues of your business? They are your staff, your clients, your suppliers. Do they know all about the reputation you are hoping to build, and do they have the communication skills to deliver those messages? Do they understand how to put messages into context, and how to mirror whether their message has been received? Do they know how to listen and hear - or do they just hear but not listen? The essential skills can be taught and learnt.Understand how to measure the effectiveness of all this effort
- after all is said and done, a lot more needs to be done
! How an organisation communicates can be, and should be measured. There are three levels of measurement - content, process and impact. The impact is the key element. Impact is visible: do the people in your organisation deliver the sought-after reputational priority, the values, the culture, in the authentic demonstration of their behaviours? If they do, take it as a given that the first two are done and dusted: a little tweaking is always valuable, but in essence, if the Impact is clearly visible across all stakeholders, it means that your corporate communicates effectively! That's understandable.