Strategic communications, finally.
I hesitated to write about this topic. Just because it seems trivial to me, because we talked about this for decades. It`s a big topic. And at the same time, it`s almost a pleonasm. How can communications be non-strategic? What the past 30 years taught me though: it can and often is non-strategic, and useless.
It can be random, tactical – and not effective, for all the understandable but wrong reasons.
Sometimes, the tactics communication is known for, such as glamorous events, big press conferences, a film gone viral or a “cool” new employee engagement tool, are seen as the end, not the means to the end. Often, nobody really knows, what the effect of these outputs are, but as everybody uses them, they somehow feel like the right thing to do. Many times, those tactics just please the internal audiences, and more is not required. Communications tactics can live a life of their own, l’art pour l’art, keeping a whole organization busy, without anybody asking the important question: “Why?” If consultancies or agencies dare to ask the question, they are perceived as difficult, in the way of the pursuit of a bigger purpose: recognition, fame, glory.
Communicators who want a seat at the strategy table don`t limit their roles to storytelling, amplification of content, cascading and controlling of messages. They want to be a catalyst for change, an important driver of transformation in an environment which is increasingly fluid.
Here`s my set of seven guardrails to ensure, communication is strategic. They assist us in bringing to life the vision of a company`s leadership, to make change happen and to engage all the stakeholders in a meaningful way during that journey.
- Spend time to define the change you want to see happen – perceptions, knowledge, attitudes, behaviors.
- Be honest and concrete about what you are adding to the world.
- Know your audience and those who influence them.
- Be sure, you understand the often complex and fluid context, the opportunities, and the barriers. Find creative solutions.
- Be crystal-clear about what you focus on and what you DON’T focus on. Budgets are limited, your stakeholders` attention span, too.
- Work on a relevant and galvanizing idea before you jump to tactics. Tactics are exchangeable.
- Plan, orchestrate and ensure, every activity is trackable and measurable.