You know communication is important in your personal life. But it may not be the first thing that comes to mind in terms of business. However, the importance of corporate communication in the business world is equally as important. Bad communication leads to unhappy employees, turned off customers, and in the end bad profit margins. So what exactly is corporate communications?
Corporate communication is all written and spoken interactions both internally and externally. And with more ways to communicate and more customers using online platforms to get answers to their questions, corporate messaging needs to translate across all mediums now more than ever.
Why is it important to business?
You may ask what’s the importance of corporate communication? And how heavily does it weigh against daily tasks and meeting overall company goals. Here are some reasons why focusing on good business communication can lead to a stronger company.
Shows transparency to employees
Employees are savvier these days. They expect more out of their employers and have greater access to learn about a potential employer. Think about online reviews from other employees, chat groups about companies, and friends touting one company over another on social media. So with all these external factors, it’s important that companies create transparency through corporate communications.
Using corporate communication companies can create messaging to show transparency. That way new hires will know before they step foot in the door, that they are working for a company who is honest. This should also carry through managers’ communications with their employees. That way, employees will feel the company and their managers are being clear on expectations. And on the flip side, employees will feel free to speak up with suggestions.
Builds strong internal teams
When you work eight or more hours a day with people, you want good co-workers. The importance of corporate communication in day to day operations is paramount. For example, you have a large product rollout and some team members are holding up the process and missing deadlines. The CEO wants to know why your team is behind and now the entire team is held accountable. Or a manager receives new direction on a project and forgets to tell the team what the new goal is. So the team members miss the mark on achieving the new goal.
These examples of lack of corporate communication lead to frustrated employees. And in return, you either start having “checked out” employees who no longer want to perform or worse high employee turnover which leads to bad company reviews. And this can affect getting great talent to join your organization in the future.
Keeps messaging consistent to customers
If you work for a larger company, you may have a corporate communications department for external audiences like customers and stakeholders and maybe an internal communications department for employee communications. Or if you have a smaller company where one person is dealing with all communications, different messaging may be created for external and internal audiences.
The importance of corporate communication is to keep messaging consistent to not only your employees but your external audiences. If you forget to communicate with your customers in the same fashion as your employees, your company brand and mission gets lost. Customers don’t know what you stand for or why they should choose you over one of your competitors.
Building a corporate communications plan
We’ve touched on the importance of corporate communications, but how do you ensure your company is actually communicating effectively? Creating and putting a corporate communications plan in place is the best way to carry this out. A plan is simply taking your written, spoken, and electronic communications and putting it all down on paper. That way, every employee understands the importance of corporate communication for your organization.
When building your plan, it’s vital to do some research and then put this research into a detailed document that all employees can easily access. A great place to store your plan is on a learning management system. That way everyone has access to the latest version and can reference the plan when questions arise.
1. Conduct audit
The first step to creating a corporate communications plan is to look at what you are currently doing in terms of company communications and ask yourself some simple, but key questions:
- What communication is currently taking place with customers?
- How do teams communicate with each other?
- What are the communication breakdowns?
- Are customers happy with the communications they receive?
- Are current communication methods meeting company goals?
This audit can be more informal or it can be a formal process conducted by an outside auditor. No matter what your process is the end goal is the same. You’ll want to evaluate your current communications and then brainstorm on ways to improve what may not be working.
2. Mission statement
Once you have your research, it’s time to fill out your plan. At the very top of your corporate communications plan should be your company’s mission statement. Why? It defines who you are and what needs you serve your audiences.
Then under your mission statement, add in two or three key messages. These messages should support your company mission and show your audiences “why you” versus your competitors.
2. Define objectives
After your mission statement should be your communication objectives. Take what you’ve learned from interviewing and surveying your employees, managers, and customers and create well-defined objectives. Make sure to focus on the end results. In other words, what do you hope to achieve? For example, it could be “to improve the employee onboarding process for better retention rates” or “turn more current customers into repeat customers.”
Whatever your objectives are, make sure they have timelines attached and can be measured to see which ones were achieved and which ones need to be worked on in the future. Remember you want S.M.A.R.T. objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-Bound.) This will make it easier when it comes time to evaluate how well your corporate communications is across your company.
3. Speak to all audiences
Next, you’ll want to write down the various audiences and influencers that touch or interact with your company. This list should include all internal and external audiences. Examples of your audiences may be customers, potential customers, general consumers, competitors, suppliers, commissioned sales force, subcontractors, employees, new hires, educators, federal, regional, and local governments, industry spokespeople, and the media.
4. Craft communication messages
Once you have your objectives and audiences, craft messages that communicate effectively to each of these audiences. Your messages should be brief, strategic, relevant, compelling, and memorable. Also, you want your messages to be consistent across all audiences so you may only have two or three messages in total.
Analyzing your corporate communications efforts
After you create a plan and put it into action, you’ll want to set a time to judge how your communication efforts are doing. Many times companies look at communication as a soft skill and don’t build metrics to measure its success even after creating a plan. So using your communication objectives rate each one based on if it was achieved or not.
If you find your corporate communications could be improved after your analysis, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.
Hire or develop C-suite Corporate Communications Director
If the importance of corporate communications has been put on the back burner until now, you may need to either hire a Corporate Communications Director or train someone on staff for this position. Look internally first and see if someone on staff would be a good fit and then add in the proper training like going through an MBA program. Or if you hire someone externally, just remember proper training on your products and services is just as vital as this person’s communications skills. So add executive training that will make this person an outstanding team leader.
Interview and listen to your employees
When you were creating your audit, what did you hear from your employees? How well was this carried out in your corporate communications plan? If your objectives are not being met, go back and talk with employees again. Where do they feel miscommunication is coming from? Plus, the more employees feel they are able to talk freely, the more vested in the company mission they will be. And if everyone voices their opinions, you’ll get a better sense of what the communication issues are.
Re-educate audiences on the importance of your corporate communication efforts
Sometimes communication objectives aren’t being met because your audiences do not understand what you are trying to communicate. Make sure your audiences know that company transparency is viewed highly. Customers get mad when they feel companies are lying to them and employees will leave if they feel their opinions don’t matter. So let your audiences know you value open and honest communication.
Crisis communication in place
No one wants a crisis in any business, but not planning for one is just as bad. When corporate communication plans fail, it is often because there was a breakdown in communication that was unforeseen. So make sure to plan for crisis situations. Have an action plan in place whether its internal or external and most importantly, be honest with your audiences if one takes place.
Use learning management system
If you are still having internal breakdowns of communication, it may be from not streamlining your delivery method. Think about how many documents you have saved on your Intranet. And maybe there are several iterations of the same document so it is hard to tell which one is the most current. And when new hires come on board, how do they know where to find what they need without sending several emails to their team leaders?
Instead of information flying in every direction creating confusion and wasting time, use a learning management system to centralize all your documents. That way, all employees know where to find the most recent version of the needed documents. And, it cuts down on emails and phone calls initiated by employees trying to locate this information.
With the amount of messaging increasing daily around your audiences, you need to stand out from your competition. In order to retain your top talent and keep and expand your customer base, you need to be innovative.
Make sure your communication uses things like video and visuals. For example, if you hire a new employee, instead of a welcome packet with a bunch of papers, create a video that this employee can view on your learning management system. Or for your customers looking for product information, create product webinars they can download to get their questions answered visually.
Many times communications breakdown because either audiences feel a company is hiding something or a company is scared to hear negative feedback. Instead of being reactive to comments from employees or customers, be proactive. Set up forums or social media groups where audiences can feel free to voice their opinions. Although you can not please everyone, you can gather meaningful ways to further improve your corporate communication from these forums.
The true cost of corporate communication
As we’ve said companies often view communication as a secondary soft skill. But the true importance of corporate communication is central to the success or failure of a business. According to a Holmes report, the cost of bad communication has hit an estimated $37 billion. And, 400 surveyed corporations (with 100,000 plus employees in the U.S. and U.K.) estimated that communication barriers cost the average organization $62.4 million per year in lost productivity. On the other hand, this same report found companies with managers who had good communication skills produced a 47 percent higher return to shareholders over a five-year period.
So you can see spending time perfecting your corporate communications plan is vital. Take the opportunity to interview your audiences, gather feedback, and craft meaningful messages to communicate effectively. And also remember to constantly evaluate your communication strategy. By keeping the communication lines open, you’ll learn more about your audiences and in return, your audiences will feel more invested in your brand.