Guts, Research, Ideas, and Action

Writing and implementing an organizational communication strategy takes guts. Any communication director or vice president of communications will tell you that the process oftentimes is like taming an alligator. The situation can be further exacerbated if you are a new hire. In unfamiliar territory, it’s hard to navigate through the murky waters of change management and organizational politics.

And, while you may be able to saddle up with ease, taking the reins and delivering a meaningful strategy, will take time, relentless passion, a compelling vision, and world-class execution. Your implementation efforts will live or die by quality of your communication strategy.

If you equip yourself with the right knowledge and tools, it’s easier to deliver on the task. This article provides tactics to help you to define, develop, and establish the right processes, actions, and mindset to guarantee innovation across the strategy development continuum. It will examine prerequisites and provide specific recommendations and approaches to help you to deliver a best practice communication strategy.

Develop a 90-day plan that maps out your strategy development process

A strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Your work process to deliver a communication strategy should be defined and mapped so that you can manage expectations. Establishing a 90-day plan with realistic milestones and meeting them will help you to secure early wins, and it will be easier to build coalitions for bottom-line impact. When you plan your work carefully and deliver on your plan, your credibility increases.

Determine the communication champions

Create momentum for your strategy and implementation plan by aligning yourself with the communication champions. Determine pockets of communication savvy, support, and buy-in and connect with the owners.

Tap the innovation vein

There is an innovation vein in every organization. It’s your job to diagnose and tap it. Employees who care have innovations unrealized. Be ready to use the ideas to innovate the mundane. Be gutsy and propose ideas that are far fetched. Sometimes the seemingly unachievable ideas may give you the best results when they are realized. Innovation grows from a free flowing stream of ideas. Let staff know that you invite and act on innovation.

Never understand the power of great graphic design

I bristle at the statement, “We don’t need a brand.” It just doesn’t make sense in today’s market. Your existence suggests the seeds of a brand that needs be developed. Organizations need to formalize their communication outputs and make sure they are delivered according to standards. My belief is that if a business doesn’t have standards and a strong graphic brand portfolio, you run a disservice to the business and are likely spending way more than you need to for creative outputs. The reasons are endless. Don’t chance it. Always ask, how can we strengthen our brand?

Be ready: change and communication almost always engender controversy

Every organization has opportunities and pitfalls. Work to understand the demands of the situation and keep ready the white flag of flexibility. Remember that internal change, communication, and controversy often go hand in hand. It’s a reality of the practice. Be ready for your personal stamina to be tested. To counteract this as you establish momentum for your strategy, work to build credibility, leverage your leadership, and mobilize the energy of your staff and others in the organization.

To maximize your efforts, you also need to understand the detractors’ point of view. Be patient. In the interim, do what it takes to create buy-in across the organization. This requires you to develop or strengthen a tough as nails and diplomatic mindset. When you turn the detractors around, the reward is great.

Conduct research at all stages of the strategy/implementation continuum

Become familiar with best practices in communication research. Use standard approaches to uncover important facts and nuances. The more that you know about an organization’s culture, history, politics, systems, structure, unrealized opportunities, and business goals, the more informed your strategy will be.

Data and information collection is important for innovation, and critical for staff to feel as if their voice was heard and that their ideas play a role in your strategy. Buy-in will also be significantly higher. The more research you can afford to do to determine the pulse and voice of the organization, the more buy-in you will have for your strategy.

The “10 ways” rule

Relax. There’s a “10 ways” rule. There’s never just one solution to every problem. Don’t be constrained by your own assumptions or industry conventions. Generate 10 ways to make something happen, then figure out which way is best for your organization: cheaper, takes less time, requires fewest person-hours, would be the most enjoyable, showcases the ability of your team, creates the greatest visibility for your organization, brings in the most donations, etc.

Create a culture of execution and implementation

Position yourself and your staff to deliver world-class execution day in and day out once your strategy is complete. You can’t let up. It’s easy for the gap between strategy and implementation to sabotage your vision.

Always be a student of communication

We are in a field that is changing and challenging. If you don’t keep up with the industry best practices, your vision and strategy will be outdated. Join a professional organization or two and connect to the professional development series and seminars for continuous learning.

Hold status meetings

Your 90-day plan should include status meetings with your immediate supervisors and other senior leaders. Operate from a “no-surprise” standpoint. Showcase your ability to make a plan and meet the deadline and deliverables of that plan.

Understand the limits of communication

Communication is an important complement to a strong organizational vision, mission, and overall business strategy. However, it doesn’t have the power to heal all organizational issues or solve its inadequacies. A nice coat of paint doesn’t make a car run any better.

Understanding an organization is key to positioning a communication strategy for success. Get under the hood so that you can create a communication strategy that fits your organization and moves it to the next level. Determine equity in the organizational brand, buy-in for change, and equity in your ideas.

If taming the alligator is possible, you will be better positioned to handle the task.