Lyndi Lawson

4 Tips for Consolidating Your Corporate Communications Policy

by Lyndi Lawson

2009/06/15

Cutting right to the chase, corporate communication refers to the methods that a company uses to communicate with its customers, stakeholders and employees. Essentially, a company’s reputation is made or broken through the messages that are disseminated, deliberately or otherwise, to these parties.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the nature of corporate communication however. Yes, this is something that I have said before about the Internet and its effect on various aspects of business. Like it or not, it is highly likely that I will say it again too.

Loudspeaker.

You should shape the message that your company sends out to the world Image (Credit: Occam).

When it comes to corporate communication, the change lies in the fact that the messages between companies, their staff and their clients are no longer moving in one direction. What remains is for those companies to find a way to make sure that the traffic coming in and out of that doorway is not damaging to them – difficult when there are so many available channels of communication to monitor. Monitoring is not enough though. The potential problems need to be pre-empted and the best way to do this is to have in place a modernised corporate communications policy that takes into account the evolving nature of communication mediums. Here are some things to think about when putting one together.

1). Know thy enemy

‘Enemy’ may be a little strong, but you get my drift. Communication, both internally and externally is multi-faceted and impossible to control. The sooner companies accept and embrace this, the better. The fact is that in the past, one had to worry about newspapers, magazines, the radio and television. Information these days has the ability to spread faster and further than ever before. This is a result of the diversity of communication channels made available by the Internet to individuals. Not only is there email and instant messaging but there are various social networks and innumerable blogs, all of which are accessible to a wide audience. An awareness of these channels (in a non-fascist-stalker kind of way) is a good starting point. The logic is simple – if you know where people are talking about you, it is easier to formulate communication guidelines.
   
2). Encourage confidentiality

It’s important to remember that it is not only your PR and Marketing departments that are talking about your business – everyone in your company has a voice and everyone with whom you interact does too. What this means is that you need to be clear with your staff about what they may and may not talk about to their friends, on their social networking profiles and on their blogs. Your secret project ceases to be secret when the new intern comments on Twitter about how hard she has been working on the conversion of dust particles to bio fuel. The thing is, that it isn’t always enough to request discretion. Your staff need to feel tied to the projects you are asking them to keep on the down low. In other words you need to have staff buy in and this begins with company culture.
At Quirk, for example, we all sign confidentiality agreements as part of our contracts and are often asked not to publicly discuss certain projects. It runs much deeper than that though – because the Stars feel such a sense of pride and ownership for new innovations, they are unwilling to do anything that will compromise it. Mostly, this is effective and it is an attitude that companies need to cultivate.

3.) Get people to ask the right questions

As an individual, communicating with others about your company should necessitate asking yourself a number of questions. These questions should be outlined in a formal way. Some of the more pertinent ones include: 

  • In saying this, will I damage my company or the individuals within it?
  • Is this the correct medium through which to communicate this information?
  • Is this the best time to be disseminating this message?

The idea behind building these questions into policy is not that it will necessarily impact on the actions of your staff, but that it will make them see the relationship between action and consequence and understand that their interactions have ramifications that go beyond the point of contact.

4). Make sure there is a communication standard and that you control it

Without stringent guidelines, your employees are highly likely to misrepresent your brand. And this is not their fault. Without a structure or brand bible, they are left without guidelines. Thus, it is necessary to outline, document and communicate the relevant areas of your brand strategy, your target market and your business plan to your staff so that they have a contextual understanding of the way in which your business functions. What’s more, this needs to cover practical brand elements too: CI, conventions like logos, spellings, acceptable terms etc. should all be consistent and this consistency apparent throughout all communication.

Corporate communication is not something that a company can rein in overnight – it is a slow process, but a necessary one. Without corporate communication, a company scarcely exists, while damaging messages leaking out into the great abyss of the WWW can be just as destructive.

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Comments

Nice post! The very fact that it is "QuirkStars", rather than merely "employees", suggest an awareness and appreciation for human capital. When you integrate staff recognition thinking into your corporate communications approach, the chances of waking up to a boardroom full of brand ambassadors are a lot better than if you treat them like overheads.

Hats off to Rob.

Posted by Andre Bothma on 2009/06/15

Thanks Andre, but I really can't take the credit. The Quirk culture has built itself over the years.

@Lindles - this is a cracking post and we can definitely learn from it. Particularly the last point... ahem... @timshier ;)

Posted by Rob on 2009/06/16

I think it's important to understand how employees can easily ruin a company communication strategy without realising it! We have had incidents through twitter and other social networks where employees have ended up getting themselves into trouble.

There is a fine line between keeping a close eye on what people within your business are posting online in order to protect the reputation of the firm and spying on your staff!!!

COMPANY IMAGE MUST ALWAYS BE AT THE FOREFRONT!

Good post guys :)

Posted by Rob on 2009/06/16

You raise some very important points, as you say, network education must be the first step but old fashioned management techniques should have been in place before that.

Staff should always feel that they are part of a "family" and that outside parties are the "enemy", once you have installed that ethos then censorship or social media comment awareness courses become redundant as your staff make their own decisions when on social media sites. There is a tendency in Managment to treat their staff as marketing, PR ignornants with no idea which direction the company is heading,---well that is clearly the fault of senior management who, instead of empowering staff, choose to spend time writing rules of what they can and cannot say on-line.

Posted by colin syme on 2009/06/17

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