The Gatehouse Blog

We need a communication strategy. And we need it now!

Heard this one before? Then you’re not alone. It’s what most seasoned communications business partners are accustomed to hearing at some stage in their career within large networked organisations. Uzma Mohamedali offers some tips to avoid slipping into chaos when asked for a communication strategy.

Now, more than ever, businesses are looking to implement their business strategy with tangible results – and quickly. Understanding the brief as an internal communications expert is half the battle, be it implementing a new policy, a new process or a business transformation. If misinterpreted, the risk of an arbitrary sounding request can be an ineffective, disjointed plan, a waste of your and your team’s time, money and intellectual effort. Making a well-considered decision is therefore important. It requires a large dose of emotional intelligence and in many cases resilience, in the face of any “push-back”. So before you sit back at your desk, exasperated, charged with a task you have no idea where to begin, take a deep breath…

Listen to gain clarity

It pays dividends to listen very carefully to what your business leader is saying. What is the real goal and purpose behind what he or she is asking for? Is it a business-critical need, or a want? For example is it a key message that can be disseminated as part of your existing plan? Is it a quick win or a labour-intensive assignment that will take both financial and human resources to deliver? To speak up and diplomatically challenge the status quo demonstrates good partnering skills. Have a robust conversation keeping the ever-changing business landscape in mind. And ask as many questions as you can along the way.

“What is the real goal and purpose behind what he or she is asking for?”

Think pragmatically

Once you understand what’s required, how do you achieve maximum effective results? Internal communication is an evolving discipline. Business as usual can mean several competing demands, at the best of times, especially in a matrix organisation where you may report to a business leader and also your communication department. Like walking on a tightrope, the alignment with the goals of your directorate and your business area is ideal. It takes good influencing skills to actively manage this tension. If there’s an opportunity for mutual benefits that’s a bonus, however as more often than not is the case, timing is a good negotiating factor.

Create commitment

It’s human nature for our degree of satisfaction to be tied to the extent of our involvement. Avoid losing credibility by ensuring as many influential stakeholders who have a vested interest in the outcome of your communications strategy have a role to play in the success of the plan. Herding the cats as it’s known, is tough job. It about getting under the skin of the business understanding what motivates your key people. To navigate this requires a blend of leadership skills and a peppering of political nous. If your key stakeholders seem lukewarm, distracted or ambivalent about your proposal, find out why. They might be able to share some insights to co-create a solution which would allow for renewed commitment. Shared vision and outcomes: are we pulling in the right direction together?

In conclusion, communicators can avoid sliding into chaos after being asked for a communications strategy, through reflecting on a few simple questions:

  • What is the real goal and purpose?
  • What is the benefit for key stakeholders?
  • Are we pulling in the right direction together?

 

 

Considering these can drastically improve the outcome of their offerings and simultaneously position communicators as active facilitators of business strategy. Faced with the challenge of a new strategy, my advice is to be alert, positive and intellectually engaged. Trust your ability to get to the heart of the issue instead of remaining at its periphery. Sometimes a full- blown communication strategy is not the answer.

 

BIOGRAPHY – Uzma Mohamedali

 

Uzma Mohamedali is a communications consultant with more than 10 years of experience in change and internal  communications working with clients both in-house and from an agency perspective. She is currently living in Europe.