Communication is a critical element of business transformation. The purpose of a communication strategy is not just to keep people informed, it is a vehicle to help shape and implement change
A poor or none-existent communications strategy can start with low levels of buy-in but then result in confusion and conflict and then eventual demoralisation of the work force, leading to the failure in achieving of the desired outcome.
A communications strategy needs to consider the different stakeholders and their views. It also needs to consider what the key messages are, what channels of communication they prefer and timing of the message. Critically, one must identify the different types of stakeholders and the impact they can have on the delivery of the strategy.
These questions can be broken down into the standard 6 questions of Who, Why, What, How, When and Where. The typical questions are shown in the table below.
Consider the table below:
Below is a limited example of a stakeholder set and the concerns and needs:
|Stakeholder Group (Who)||Stakeholder Concerns (Who)||Communications Needs (Who)|
|Board / Executive||Concerned about overall business performance and investors returns. They play a crucial role in strategy development, implementation and risk mitigation||Communication is critical throughout all stages of transformation from strategy development through to implementation. Early stages will require alignment of views, negotiations and trade-offs as well as conflict management|
|Finance||Concerned with company financials. Profitability and Cash Flow, Investment returns. His focus is on making sure the company’s money is managed effectively.||Communications strategy needs to consider company’s financial position and timing of any investments as well as reporting to investors. Over the transformation lifetime there are likely to be financial challenges that will require communications and alignment|
|Operations||Concerned about Operational Performance. Are we meeting our SLA’s / KPI’s?||Communications strategy needs to consider impact on operational performance. Change maybe time intensive and likely to distract from current performance as re-alignment and training take shape. Key here is to be aware of key business periods of heavy operational activity i.e. retail is usually Christmas period|
|Sales & Marketing||Concerned about the Sales Pipeline. Are we targeting the right people? Are we able to convert leads into sales?||Communications strategy needs to consider impact on Sales and Marketing plans and teams. Changes to target customers or products are likely to see knock on impacts to processes, tools, personnel and training|
|Human Resources||Concerned with overall recruitment strategy, development of a company’s culture and overall performance and remuneration||Communications strategy needs to consider any effects on HR policies, recruitment drives, organisational change, redundancies, salaries and benefits. Also needs to consider possible needs to change culture (as example one focused on quality to one focused on speed)|
|Risk & Compliance||Concerned with management of business risks. Are we doing things the right way i.e. according to the industry regulations? Do we understand and are we mitigating the main business risks?||Communications strategy needs to consider how various risks are managed and mitigated|
|Change (Programme / Project Managers)||Concerned with the implementation of strategic changes.||Communications strategy needs to consider what is being delivered / changed, by whom and when|
|Supplier and Partners||Concerned with impact on existing contracts as well as potential for future business||Communications strategy needs to consider ability to leverage existing contracts or potential exit complications|
|Auditors and Regulators||Concerned with the company’s compliance against industry and government regulations||Communications strategy needs to consider compliance against existing regulations and mitigation strategies and roadmaps for the future|
Table 1: Stakeholders (Who information)
Once you have a clear understanding of who your stakeholders and their concerns you can then look at what influence they will have, where they have influence and how to work with them to mitigate any risks / expose any opportunities. You can then agree how you can communicate with them in the future, how often and under what circumstances.
Be mindful that building rapport with you key stakeholders is key to a successful communications strategy. Remember, it is often very difficult to get all the key stakeholders together at the same time and if you can, you may not get much time. It is important to get to know each stakeholder and their preferences. A CEO will often have a different schedule to an Operations Director. For instance, an Operations Director may spend most of his time local to the business and his time structured for key points in the week. A Sales / Marketing Director may spend much of his time on the road visiting his Sales and Marketing team or current / prospective strategic accounts. One stakeholder may prefer email while another may prefer a face to face meeting over coffee
We have a free product here that is a useful example for you to use.
Developing a communications strategy is a complex undertaking with lots of moving parts. PR pros like Dianna Booher understand best practices and exactly what goes into creating and executing an effective communications strategy.
Dianna Booher, CEO of Booher Research, is a bestselling author of 47 books, including her latest: Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done. She works with organizations to help them communicate clearly and with leaders to expand their influence by fostering a strong executive presence. Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, Forbes.com, Fast Company, FOX, CNN, NPR, Success, and Entrepreneur routinely interview her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues.
Meanwhile, Booher has an eight-step process she uses to develop a communications strategy plan for a client, company, or specific event:
Step 1: Interview all the primary stakeholders to get their perspective on the problem and the goal.
Step 2: Analyze the data to see where there’s agreement.
Step 3: Decide if it’s necessary to collect more data to further investigate the misalignment.
Step 4: Interview other stakeholders (second-tier people) to understand how they see the problem and the goal.
Step 5: Reconfirm the goal with the primary stakeholders.
Step 6: Design an implementation plan, along with measurements of success.
Step 7: Execute the plan.
Step 8: Measure success
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