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Exec transitions: Elevate your leadership communication

Jan 19. 2016
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By Special to the Nation

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As a C-level executive taking on a new role, it’s important to quickly establish or elevate your communications programme.

 

The higher you go, the more that people within the organisation want to know what you will be doing and how you will be doing it. You may have inherited hundreds or even thousands of staff distributed across the world, to whom you may need to communicate renewed vision, mission, strategy or brand objectives.

There may also be many other external stakeholders who you have to communicate to, for example, investors, bankers, customers and the community.

As first impressions matter, a transition is a good time to step back and create an impactful communications programme to help you influence stakeholders and achieve your objectives.

This article frames a simple model to help C-level executives proactively create and execute a disciplined and impactful communications programme that aligns with their core objectives.

This communications cascade requires incoming executives to establish clarity around nine key elements of their communications programme – priorities, audiences, audience-specific objectives, messages, packaging, channels, delivery, frequency and feedback.

Align communications to your priorities: A good starting point would be your core go-forward priorities. Once you have clarity on key priorities, it makes sense to create a communications strategy specific to each priority, which then becomes part of an overall communications programme.

Define critical audiences: For each priority, define your critical audiences. Who do you need to communicate to? Who do you need to hear from?

Define audience-specific objectives around each priority: With each audience, you are likely to have different goals. Thus, for each priority you may have different communication intents and goals for different audiences.

Define critical messages: For each audience under a priority, there will be different messages at different points of time. Having your straw-man messages to different audiences clarified across a timeline can help with the effective construction and distribution of messages as needed.

Package your messages: Once you have defined some key messages, the next step is to consider how they are best packaged for delivery. The key here is that your intended audience understands and, ideally, responds to your message in a way that you want.

Think through who will deliver the messages: When you define a communications programme, you do not have to deliver it all by yourself. Sometimes it is more effective when others deliver messages on your behalf.

Select channels for communication: Today, there are numerous channels for communication within the organisation and externally, such as email, work networking systems like Yammer, LinkedIn and Twitter combined with video, teleconferencing, webcasting, town halls, and other meeting formats. Select your communication channel depending on the nature of the message, the importance of different stakeholders, the number of stakeholders to communicate to and their geographic dispersion.

Define communication frequency: For each priority, audience, message and channel, define the frequency of your communications, as it can help clarify the demands of a communications programme on your available time.

Seek feedback and evaluate your communications: To assess whether your communications strategy is working, you may want to get feedback from your different audiences. You can get feedback from direct conversations, online surveys and other channels. Feedback can help shape improvements to the communications programme.

A good communications programme also helps you assess how much effort and time you will have to put into communications. It will clarify your messages and ways of engaging critical stakeholders.

An authentic and credible communications programme can help persuade and inform key stakeholders of your intentions and successes, and this can make an impact that matters to the organisation.

This article is an extract from the Executive Transitions series by Ajit Kambil, Deloitte Global Research director for the CFO programme and the creator of Deloitte’s Executive Transition Labs. Back articles at www.dupress.com

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