Archive for culture of communication

Employee Communications: Internal Branding = External Success

It’s a simple equation. Internal Branding = External Success.  Employee communications programs should embody the brand and foster a culture of communication that rallies employees around the mission and business goals of the company.  Yet many organizations neglect internal communication.  With an economy in the tank, some companies feel that employees should be happy to have a job.  But when things are bad, employees need to be hearing frequently about the true state of the company, what management is doing about it, what it means for the individual employee.

Even in bad times, smart companies are able to mobilize their employees to support the company and its brand by being twice as productive as before and in their communication with customers.   Employees want their company to succeed, so why not give them an opportunity to be part of the solution?  It works in a company that has nurtured a culture of communication that it can rely on to see it through both the good and bad times.

In communication with employees —

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Trust is the core component – all communications must be reliable, truthful and contain the full story. At the heart of trust is:
Openness – there must be an unwavering commitment to and support of a healthy two-way communications environment.
Simplicity – communications must be clear, meaningful and accessible.
Consistency – messages must be strategic and integrated.
Caring – there must be concern for the individual.

The most important element in communicating with employees is speed. They need to hear news from the company — both good and bad — before they read it in online forums and news programs.

The CEO as the Chief Communication Champion

The shadow of a leader – meaning the impact an executive has on his or her employees – is always bigger than you think.  This is especially true when it comes to trust and believability in internal communications.  For internal communications to be meaningful, it is important for executives to lead by example: “Don’t just do as I say, do as I behave.”  In addition, employees in most companies are craving leadership – they want champions they can trust to lead them in new directions.

The CEO must also be the CCC – Chief Communication Champion of the company.   S/he needs to ensure that other executives are truly leading the development of a Culture of Communication – meaning that all corporate communications are reliable, truthful and contain the full story.  The CCC needs to establish a Champion Program with rewards and incentives to instill new behaviors.  A healthy two-way communication culture will lead to better performance.  For the Champion Program to succeed, it must ensure that:

•    The CEO is the visible leader of corporate communications

•    Executive behavior in support of positive communication is rewarded

•    Communications ambassadors are created at all levels of company

During bad times – such as layoffs, a hostile takeover, a product recall – those CEOs who are truly CCCs will have already gained the trust and commitment of employees to work through any crisis.

Juicing Up the Annual Report

[tweetmeme]Spring is coming and so is the avalanche of annual reports that public companies send to their shareholders.  And, as usual, most of them will be as dull as dishwater.  Think about it.  When was the last time someone told you he had curled up in bed with a good annual report to read?  Not likely, unless sleep was the primary motivation. Annual reports can be real dullards.

In an effort to avoid offending any of the organization’s constituents, not step on the toes of regulators or in the rush to get the darn thing out, the people who produce them for a living often take the easy way out.  Change the wording a little of last year’s CEO’s letter, revise the financial charts, drop in photos of the new trustees, add a dollop here and there of new initiatives, and that’s it.

It’s time for a new take on these angst-producing documents that so often lie dormant in the storeroom after the initial distribution.  Years later, musty copies are still taking up space.

We need to look at the annual report more strategically.  How can it advance the goals of the organization?  How can it support the sales team or development director?  Who should be involved in the process of defining the content?   Who will most benefit from an annual report that demonstrates the dynamic nature of the organization, its vision, and its role in society?

Make it sell

The report should very strategically position the organization as the leader in its space, developing new paradigms of products and services.

In creating the annual report for a nonprofit in the healthcare field, I worked closely with the director of development to understand his needs so we could present the financial results and new strategic initiatives in such a way that it would be easy for him in personal meetings to walk potential donors through the report, hitting the high spots to pique their interest and open their wallets.

Use Testimonials

Use testimonials from the company’s customers and employees to bring the vision statement to life.  Let them tell the reader what a great company this is.

So, if you’re assigned to create this year’s annual report, how do you ensure it accurately represents the organization and has a long, active life after it’s been printed and distributed?  Here are my suggestions:

•    The CEO needs to be involved from the get-go.  Do not even think of hiring a writer or design firm until you have met with the CEO to understand how s/he wishes the organization to be positioned in the document. S/he cannot delegate this discussion to someone else.

•    Armed with this information, write a creative platform that describes the overall theme and tone of the annual report, its content and “look.”  Get the CEO to sign off on it.

•    Meet with key people in the company or organization who would most likely use the annual report throughout the year such as the head of sales, director of development, director of public and community affairs, and so on.  Get their ideas of what they would like to see emphasized in the report.  Find out what would make them use it during the year to help them achieve their goals.

•    Make a mock-up of the report, page by page.  It doesn’t need to be fancy. Take some legal paper and fold the sheets in half.  It’s essential to know the content of every page and ideas for photos, charts, etc.

•    Now you can meet with your design firm and writer, if that’s not you.  Everyone should be working from the approved creative platform and mock-up.  Believe me, they will love you for it.

•    Show two to three designs to the CEO with the mock-up.  If you’ve done your job right, s/he will have a tough time picking out the winner, because s/he will love them all.

Be true to the creative platform as you go through the process of developing the report.  Be excited as it begins to unfold as a living, breathing document that will take on a life of its own for a year.  Don’t be afraid to be a little gutsy with the copy and design.  You’re not creating the next Bible, after all.

While your readers may not take your annual report to bed, at least you can be confident they won’t fall asleep at their desks as they read it.