The start of a new year is as good a time as any to establish or reiterate key messages for your various stakeholders. Chief executive officers (CxOs), especially those who are new to their posts, may need to communicate fresh targets for 2016, update stakeholders on goals that were met and plans for the next few months, or motivate the team after the long holiday break.
Unfortunately, not all CxOs have access to communications support in their organizations. At a time when we are working in increasingly complex, perhaps multinational organizations, and dealing with so much ‘noise’ coming from different communications channels, it is important for leaders to create a disciplined communications program that will help them achieve their objectives.
At Deloitte, we have a number of consultants and experts who regularly advise business leaders and develop thought leadership materials on management themes or issues relevant to CxOs. In one such material, Dr. Ajit Kambil, the global research director for Deloitte’s CFO program, talked about a simple model that can help executives proactively create and execute a communications program that is aligned with their core objectives.
In his article, Elevate your leadership communication strategies, which was first published in the Deloitte University Press, Dr. Kambil set out nine key elements of a communications program that leaders, particularly incoming executives, need to define clearly.
Priorities. Once you are clear on what your priorities are, given your current role, you can create a communications strategy specific to each priority. Put together, these strategies become part of your communications program.
Audience. Dr. Kambil recommends defining your critical audience for each priority. Depending on your role or the size of your organization, you may have to communicate with several different audience groups, within and outside your company.
Audience-specific objectives. Once you’ve defined your audiences, you may find that you have different goals for each audience. For example, when communicating with your own team, your goal may be to rally the troops so that each person knows what needs to be done in order to meet targets, but when communicating with the CEO or your peers, your goal may simply be to keep them posted on your progress.
Critical messages. According to Dr. Kambil, “For each audience under a priority, there will be different messages at different points of time.” To make sure you don’t miss any critical messages, he recommends plotting these messages across a timeline so that they are delivered at appropriate points.
Packaging. Once you have defined your critical messages, your next consideration would be how to best package them for delivery. Dr. Kambil cites a number of ways you can package your messages: as stories, in a factual report, through personal conversations, with the aid of infographics and videos, etc. He notes, though, that “where behavior or belief changes are required, stories may be a more memorable and effective format.” He also underscores the importance of considering language and cultural fit, especially if you are a part of a global organization.
The messenger. Just because you are the head of a team doesn’t mean you are the best person to deliver the messages. For each critical message, think about who would be most effective in delivering that message. It could be one of your peers or a staff member.
Channels for communication. Nowadays, there is no lack of media for communicating with your various stakeholders. You can deliver your message via e-mail, work networking systems, social media, or webcasting. When deciding how to best get your message across, Dr. Kambil recommends that you consider the following factors: the nature of the message, the importance of different stakeholders, the number of stakeholders to communicate to, and their geographic dispersion.
Communication frequency. Defining how often you need to communicate with each of your audience groups will give you an idea how much time you need to devote to your communications program. Within our own firm, for example, we make it a point to organize a town hall every quarter to keep the entire team abreast of each division’s progress and to acknowledge or celebrate significant wins.
Feedback and evaluation. One important point Dr. Kambil makes in his article is that conversations are an essential part of any communications program. While you, as the leader, are the source of the messages, your communication with your stakeholders doesn’t have to be linear or one-way. Encourage feedback—by talking to a sampling of your audience or using online surveys—to see how well your communications strategy is working and, more importantly, to determine whether or not your audience understands your messages. This will help you improve your communications program where needed.
As we start this year fresh, I encourage leaders to take the time to think about how they’re conversing with their teams, their peers, their clients. Too often, we underestimate the effort needed to craft the right messages and to be understood by our target audiences, but here we have laid out a few points that will hopefully make that effort more fruitful. As Dr. Kambil pointed out in his article, “An authentic and credible communications program can help persuade and inform key stakeholders on our intentions and successes, and this, in turn, can accelerate your impact on the organization.”
Something to think about for 2016.
The author is the Managing Partner & CEO of Navarro Amper & Co., the local member practice of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., a UK private company limited by guarantee (DTTL”). Deloitte provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, tax and related services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. It has more than 220,000 professionals worldwide, including those in Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd., which covers Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.