A Strategic Imperative for the Communication Age
Communication Leadership is a strategic imperative. It increases customer advocacy, decreases employee turnover and attracts investment. It builds goodwill and safeguards reputation. And, in a 24/7 networked world where transformation and radical transparency have become business-as-usual, it is critical to organizational success.
Communication Leadership is epitomized by the capabilities and thoughtfully executed practices that convey the competence and credibility of an organization and its management team. These efforts generate positive perceptions among stakeholders, building the kind of awareness, alignment and advocacy that today’s landscape demands of businesses of all sizes, in every sector.
This is not to say that communication practices – or communication teams – produce these results in isolation. Communication Leadership encompasses employee communication, investor relations, media relations and reputation management, while it considers and complements marketing, customer relations and human resources. Among its greatest benefits is its two-pronged premise: (1) Communication the act is bigger than communication the function, and (2) Communication (the function) can and should be an organizational integrator, responsible for a holistic communication strategy that prioritizes company stakeholders over departmental silos.
In fact, organizations that fail to coordinate and connect communication across internal functions and stakeholder groups are far less likely to achieve Communication Leadership than organizations that view communication with a wide lens and plan accordingly. In our experience, there are four other key reasons that impede an organization’s ability to achieve Communication Leadership:
- They don’t know how. They may not have the right expertise or even the awareness that something is missing. They don’t know what they don’t know – and without the benefit of luck, this ignorance will eventually hurt them.
- They shoot from the hip. An organization that doesn’t have a clear purpose, strategy or values – a shared understanding of who and what they are – typically doesn’t follow a strategic framework for communicating or produce consistent, compelling messages across audiences and channels.
- They dismiss its value. If an organization’s leadership doesn’t value communication, there is zero chance that the organization will achieve Communication Leadership and reap its benefits. Senior leaders don’t have to understand the details, but they do have to appreciate the art and science of communicating, and be willing to listen, learn and participate.
- They lack organizational humility. Communication Leadership takes practice. That means trying new ways of communicating and learning from them when they fail (not easy for leaders who resist communicating in the first place). Making stakeholder engagement a priority is another precept of Communication Leadership. That means listening to and conversing with – as well as informing – employees, investors, customers, elected officials, regulators, even activist groups. Communication Leadership can happen when an organization has the humility to recognize and address shortcomings or misperceptions as well as acknowledge success. Without that humility, it will be held back from achieving its full potential in building stakeholder advocacy.
Like any critical business discipline in non-profits, public sector institutions, and across the spectrum of small businesses to large corporations, Communication Leadership is learned and honed over time. Those who recognize its importance today will be rewarded tomorrow, when they find themselves outshining competitors in an era of communication influenced by augmented reality, beacons, hardware memes, 3-D printing and the Internet of Things.
As Greg Satell said last year in Forbes, “It has become fashionable to say that our present epoch is an information age, but that’s not quite right. In truth, we live in a communication age and it’s time we start taking it seriously.”
Communication Leadership does just that – elevates the performance and reputation of organizations who are ready and willing to take communication as seriously as they take strategy, finance, marketing or operations.