The success of your business relies on the strength of its external stakeholder relationships. In turn, that will depend on how well you communicate with your various audiences. To smooth the process of developing crucial public-facing communications content, we offer practical advice, time-tested processes, and real-world examples.
Your smart communications strategy is all about describing what you want to achieve with the information you make public. You’ll want to set out your objectives, the tools you need to use and with whom you’re communicating.
The plan will also talk about what information you’ll share and how you’ll distribute it. Finally, you’ll need to identify who’s responsible for managing the message and set out timescales.
What types of content do organisations produce? As well as the usual printed material, there’s conference and PR materials, surveys and reports. Your marketing literature includes newsletters, case studies, presentations and promotional material. Digitally speaking, you have your website, blogs, emails and your social media presence.
Develop a calendar to show when your communication materials will be available and define a way of assessing the effectiveness of your strategies.
Developing a smart communications plan is a positive step aimed at giving everyone the information they need in good time. The plan sets out who creates each type of communication and how often. It’s key to identify how much time you need to spend on each task in your overall organisational planning.
Specify in your plan not only the type of messages you’re sending out but also who the audience is. Identify who you’re talking to clearly and put yourself in their shoes.
Talk to them as if speaking to one person; use ‘you’ and ‘your’. Show that you understand their problems and can provide answers.
If the information is time-sensitive, get it out using voice, text and email alerts, so that people can make quick decisions.
Add a revision history to your smart communications plan so that you can keep a record of who made changes and when. This record will help you assess your tools and techniques and reuse successful strategies next time.
In case you doubted the importance of good business communications, consider these epic communication failures.
Putting the Brakes on Toyota
How about Toyota? When they eventually relented and recalled millions of cars because of a faulty brakes scandal, the damage was beyond repair. They’d downplayed the issue for months but suffered when Consumer Reports withdrew their recommendations of eight of their models.
Toyota’s failing was in not accepting full responsibility from the start and not stating how they were going to rectify things.
The mess that BP couldn’t clean up
Then there was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. They used costly TV commercials to apologise profusely at every opportunity. But the public didn’t buy it. BP came over as insincere and dishonest.
Even President Obama chipped in, suggesting that the cash they ploughed into the ads could have been better spent sorting out the mess. Then-boss Tony Hayward said that he wanted his life back, showing little respect for those who died in the explosion.
So, what’s the takeaway from all this? You should think very carefully about any new products and services you’re introducing. Consider how they’ll affect your customers.
Specifically, plan, plan and plan again.
If something goes wrong, be proactive in limiting damage before things get out of hand. Be open, honest, transparent and always imagine what life is like in your customers’ shoes.
Finally, do everything humanly possible to put things right.