Best Practices

Best Practices


We have witnessed numerous examples in politics lately of communications that are not aligned. The President says one thing, his staff says something different, and then the press dissects the divide. The outcome is, at a minimum, confusion and possibly even distrust. How can you avoid this in your business communications? Put in place a clear communications plan, then ensure that your leaders understand, embrace and execute it. The result will be communications that are clear and aligned and build trust with your key constituencies.

I suggest you build two annual communication plans: one for internal audiences and one for external audiences. The internal communications plan should lay out both the regular employee communications that need to be done, as well as any special communications that might be needed such as those related to significant new initiatives or areas of special emphasis. You may want to identify different internal audiences such as leadership, sales colleagues and the overall colleague population, or whatever different internal audiences make sense for you. Below is an example of an internal communications plan that you can modify to meet your own needs. Of course, you will need to expand on the topics and objectives and perhaps even incorporate key messages into the plan.

Be sure to have a person or team tasked with creating the content for each of these communications. You may want to include speakers notes for content such as company results, strategy reviews and goals reviews, as no single leader is likely to be well versed in all areas of content. You may want to have a question-and-answer session after broad communications sessions such as company results or strategy reviews, and circulate these for the broader leadership team as a means of keeping a finger on the organizational pulse.

The external communications plan will be similar in format but more complex, as you will have a broader set of audiences such as customers, suppliers, investors, the communities in which you are located and the general public. An example of a skeleton external communications plan is shown below. I have not included investors in the example, as these communication needs will vary widely.

I suggest you have a specific digital communications strategy managed by experts, as it can be hard to keep your company website looking professional and up to date. In addition, you may want to have specific strategies for advertising on Facebook and Instagram and for interacting with customers on these and other digital platforms. Keep in mind that articles in local newspapers and in magazines (such as LubesnGreases, of course) can be useful aspects of your communications strategy.

It is useful to develop your strategy very early in the year and make it part of your annual planning cycle. Once developed, it is easier to update each year as new focus areas emerge as part of the planning process. However, the development of a communications strategy is only the beginning; you also have to ensure that it is carried out in a quality fashion. I suggest that you rotate the responsibilities for giving regular presentations such as company results or strategy updates. I also suggest you use such sessions to gather feedback from the audience on the quality of the presentation and the presenter, as well as on areas about which the audience would like more information. You can use such input to improve the quality and the utility of these sessions in the future.

One of the major benefits of the communications plan is the regular reinforcement of key messages, strategies and plans. You will find that your leaders, and in fact all employees, are more well-rounded in their knowledge of the company and are better ambassadors for the organization in external circumstances. Of course this doesnt mean that your communications should be uniform; you do need to introduce some novel aspects to your regular presentations or your audience will lose interest. Occasionally, introduce new media such as video clips, new speakers such as customers or other business partners, or external speakers in areas of current interest.

One more tip to align communications is to equip your leadership with some useful elevator speeches. These are short answers to complicated questions that take no more time than it takes to ride the elevator. Some useful topics are the following:

What is your companys mission?

What are your companys values?

What is your companys strategy?

How do you feel about your company performance?

Where do you see your company in five years? 10 years?

What is your company philosophy on employees?

How is your company positioned in the market versus your competitors?

Of course every leader doesnt have to produce the exact same answers to these questions, and you do want your leaders to be authentic. However, these are basic questions that are fundamental to the way your leaders represent your company and demand some level of consistency.

The creation and quality execution of communications plans will improve your company image both internally and externally and ultimately result in more trust and better business results.

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Email her at or phone (908) 400-5210.

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