Communication strategy during a time of strategic planning

By: Lee Hopkins

"Rubbish!" shouted the large, aggressive man in the red-striped
shirt (we had to pay attention to him because he owned the
company).

"The staff don't need to be told anything. When we've sorted out
all the details and have the adverts ready to run, then we'll
tell them. They don't need to know beforehand, it'll only stop
them working" he went on to loudly proclaim.

It's hard to ignore the wishes of your client, especially when
he's paying you so well and has browbeaten every other
consultant, as well as his management team, into submission.

Yet my experience, again and again, is this:

If you don't tell them what's going on, they'll make it up
anyway!

Employees not present at strategic planning offsite meetings
aren't dumb; they're just not present. They know you're away
(they think probably planning the future of the company, their
jobs and their salary cuts), so they will gossip and
rumour-monger to their heart's discontent while you are not
'minding the store'.

So planning your internal communication is an essential
prerequisite to effective and committed implementation of any
business strategy.

It also goes a long way towards problem
minimisation.

In order to minimise the internal and external risks of gossip
and rumours, therefore, you should have it very firmly set in
your mind that a communication outlining the outcome of the
planning should arrive with all due speed, consistency and
completeness.

The following guidelines have been tested by experience and
found useful:

1. Design and agree
The communication strategy should be designed and agreed by all
as part of the planning process, not an adjunct activity
delegated to a junior manager who, in all probability, wasn't
even at the planning meeting.

2. Tell everyone ASAP
Feedback to all those affected should take place at the earliest
possible opportunity —- preferably first thing next morning,
before the rumour mill has had too much time to gear up. A
useful strategy is to have planning meetings on weekends, with
the staff briefing occuring first thing Monday morning.

3. One meeting to bind them all
Aim for one single briefing or feedback session, rather than
multiple sessions where watering down or distortion of the
original message might occur. Thankfully, technology largely
allows such a singel session to occur, even across multiple
timezones. In such an instance, scripting of the communication
would prove a valuable tool to consistency, especially where the
text of the session will appear on a company intranet.

4. Follow up and re-purpose
A follow-up message (via audio, video or even simple written) to
all from the CEO, emphasing the key points, is very useful. It
too can be re-purposed to appear on the company intranet, or as
a briefing to investors and the marketplace.

All of this might seem like overkillFree Articles, a tremendous amount of
effort for very little gain. But such a view must be evaluated
against the fact that the long-term strategic plan will drive
the company for anything from the next five to fifteen years.

Investing time at the beginning to 'get it right' will pay
massive dividends over the longer term.

Communications
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