Thursday, April 02, 2009

Making comms integral to business strategy

I've got a '10 top tips' piece in this month's Communicators magazine from CiB that bears repeating here:

10 top tips on making internal communication integral to business strategy

Internal communicators have a tough job in tough times – helping to engage people across the organisation in getting the job done, often against a backdrop of shrinking budgets, job cuts and everyone being asked to do more with less.

Many communicators haven’t experienced a recession before, and aren’t clear on how to bring the best value to the businesses they serve. But by focusing on business outcomes rather than communication outputs, they can demonstrate real value to their organisation – both in keeping engagement high, and in preparing for the upturn.

Here are my ten top tips on making communication integral to business strategy:

1. Understand key business drivers Make sure you understand where your organisation is heading; why it has chosen a particular direction and how it plans to get there. That way you can tailor communication to provide direct support for the strategy.

2. Understand the people drivers Know what makes people get up for work and keep coming back and make sure you know how communication can keep them engaged.

3. Recognise that there’s only one business strategy Your communication plan must be a recognised part of that strategy. If you’re operating in parallel, there’s far more room for a disconnect.

4. Internal Communication is part of the business planning process Long gone are the days when a decision is made and then we communicate it. Make sure you and your team have a voice at the business planning table.

5. Create a compelling narrative Work with your senior team to create – and regularly update – an honest, open storyline that explains where the business is; its key challenges and how everyone can play a part in delivering successful outcomes. This should underpin all communication activity.

6. Plan, prioritise and be decisive They key to effective internal communication in a downturn is doing a few things well. Focus on what’s essential and be ruthless in ditching the ‘nice to haves’.

7. Set objectives, success criteria roles and responsibilities The object is to move the business forward – work out how communication will do that; and how you’ll know you’ve achieved your aims.

8. Think impact, not output Internal communication is about helping people achieve business goals. So find the way to achieve that goal most effectively rather than automatically opting for the ‘prestige’ communication tools.

9. Empower others Effective internal communication is the responsibility of everyone in an organisation – it’s not just down to the comms team. But give people the skills and tools to play an active and positive part and make it easy for them to comply with the process.

10. Be an objective expert Be seen as the fount of communication expertise that will improve your organisation’s fortunes. Keep in close and direct contact with key leaders and influencers at all levels. Don’t be submissive or subversive and work on influencing the influencers.

Mark Shanahan is a director of Leapfrog Corporate Communication which bridges the gap between strategic consultancies and tactical communication agencies. He will be leading the CiB ‘From Output to Outcome’ training course in London on April 28th. Full details are available at

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