Four Easy Steps to Creating a Communication Strategy

Many organisations work tirelessly on their strategic plans, conduct in-depth analysis using the many tools available, determine how to implement the various activities, how to craft the all-important vision and mission statements, and how to ensure the pathway is clear ahead. However, to actually realise this vision, you need to ensure stakeholders have buy-in. In this capacity, many organisations fail to clearly articulate how they are going to convey their plan, how they are going to inform key stakeholders, ensure staff are aligned with the vision, and ensure the strategic decisions are implemented as desired. To achieve the clarity required to see strategic results, leaders must focus on their strategic communication.

Strategic communication involves communicating an idea, concept, process, or data that satisfies the long-term strategic goal of an organisation. With clearly articulated communication, we can facilitate advanced planning over long distances using international telecommunications or dedicated global network assets to coordinate actions and activities of operational significance.

Communication is successfully strategic when it is entirely consistent with the organisation mission, vision, values and when it can enhance the strategic positioning and the competitiveness of the organisation. However, the conventional articulation of missions and visions is often appearance based, only require rudimentary skills, and is self-promoting. What do I mean by that? Surely, once the Mission statement is written, printed, and emblazoned across the workspace, then surely everyone within my organisation will understand our goals and will become strategically aligned by these words of wisdom? Unfortunately, not. Many staff won’t even read them. They will walk by your beautifully crafted words blankly. Even if they do read them, they won’t absorb them unless there is a meaning behind them, unless they are aligned with the worker, and unless the values of the individual are recognised within them.

Taking the metaphor of the iceberg, partially submerged, which identifies multiple behavioural and humanistic perspectives. Applying the iceberg metaphor in this context, the mission/vision statement is the area of the iceberg above the waterline that can be seen. However, just like the iceberg, it cannot support itself without what is beneath the waterline. Much of what lies beneath is the values and beliefs of the company and its staff. Therefore, to ensure that your strategic message is articulated clearly, you must ensure that your words are aligned with the strategic direction and, crucially, are truly supported by company values and beliefs. Without this, your mission/vision statement is just a series of meaningless words that look good but are not a strategic communication tool.

So how do we achieve this strategic communication? Here are four key tools to support strategic communication:

  • Plan

Alongside your strategy planning, you must plan how you are going to communicate to your people. Planning is a continuous process of research and analysis, task analysis, execution, and assessment. Furthermore, success in this process requires diligent and continual analysis, and assessment being fed back into planning and actions. Importantly, the planning is as much a vertical process as a horizontal one.

We must plan up and down our organisation to ensure that we capture all perspectives in our communications.

  • Actionable Objectives

Objectives should have a specific endpoint to provide an indicator of success. By gaining a broader understanding of what is happening throughout the organisation, you will ensure that planning the communication strategy will be easier. To help in the planning process, use actionable objectives. The objectives are effective when using SMART goals: they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time sensitive. Objectives can be set to staff to achieve clarity. Likewise, SMART objectives help ensure that staff feel a part of the strategic journey while also providing feedback on any communication problems that may hamper the journey.

  • Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is a fundamental part of any communication engagement strategy but is one that is frequently underused. The critical element of this process is identifying the stakeholders and then determining their influence in your business. We are looking to create a communication strategy, and that communication has to reach the top and bottom of the business. So many strategies fail due to poorly implemented analysis or avoid the difficult or complicated stakeholder. The complex and difficult ones are the ones that you need to reach out to more than you might think.

  • Measure Success

According to Poppulo, 60% of communication strategies are not measured for success. Success is not only the accomplishment of tasks, but it is also intrinsically motivating.  To ensure a communication strategy conveys the appropriate degree of clarity and transparency while maintaining the critical message, it should be tested, trialed, and measured. Once again, you must plan how you are going to measure this success. Merely asking staff if they understand your message is unlikely to provide the answer you seek. You must determine what success would look like in your business and then ensure you introduce a valid measurement system. What is a valid measurement system? It actually measures what you want it to measure. It is reliable, in that the test could be conducted many times by different people, and these differences would not influence the results.

This year has seen many organisations re-adjusting to the unprecedented changes that have been forced on them. The time spent determining a strategic direction will go a great way in ensuring success. However, without clearly articulating your strategy, how you are going to implement your strategy, and how your business will be run following the strategic change, your efforts could be wasted. Your communication strategy is an essential part of business success to ensure the clarity and transparency required is achieved.

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