The corporate superpower trending right now is strategic communication. It’s a red cape. It’s the new power tie. Or, if you like the fashion metaphor, it’s the perfect black dress or dark blue tailored suit that is classic and timeless. Once you invest in it, strategic communication is a staple to your corporate wardrobe. It becomes your go-to look. You’ll always need it.
So, while it may be on-trend right now to have stealthy strategic communication, especially when it comes to your leadership team, I believe it is always going to be a superpower your company needs to rely on. How do you begin?
Begin with a radical internal communication facelift.
It’s the best starting point. A strong strategic communication plan will start with a radical approach. If you’re wondering if your company needs an internal communication overhaul, it does, or you wouldn’t be asking the question. Internal communication is the backbone of corporate communication. It holds a company together, thus the power cape.
Without it, there is a lack of order that becomes a breeding ground for chaos and confusion. Employees like to know — need to know and crave knowing — what is expected. They want clear, concise communication that is simple. Direction should be dispensed in an easy-to-understand way that is palatable and digestible.
Consider bringing in a strategic communication advisor who can walk your existing or new team through these steps. Or do an overhaul of your company communications and bring in strategic advisors to harness this superpower. It can be a culture-changing move to get a team back on track or to infuse new energy into a team.
Developing a clear strategic communication plan internally helps employees understand the brand and expectations and get on board a company’s vision. Without it, well, your employees are flying solo.
Leadership communication is the next big thing.
When looking at internal communication trends, one that is on point is leadership communication. When done well, it can make a CEO or executive become an internal thought leader of a company. It’s a lot to think about. And hard to do well, thus the superpower.
That’s why many leaders choose to bring in strategic communication advisors to help their teams navigate their processes or create new ones. Or new CEOs and CFOs join a new company and need a strategic communication team. In my opinion, it is always a smart move for leaders to have experts to rely on as they chart their course. It’s one of the bravest moves for a new leader, having a strategic communication advisor or team to trust, someone who won’t BS them.
According to insights from Stanford University experts, the key is also engaging all leadership, not just a few collaborators. Communicate better, often and keep the messaging simple while sticking to the narrative. It is a team effort.
Big companies are getting it. Their leaders are talking about new ways to engage with employees. I recently listened to a podcast “Culture, Comms, and Cocktails” in which Kristin Graham, former Principle of Culture and Communication for Amazon, spoke about how Amazon is connecting culture and communication.
Change is happening. Employee engagement is a thing, and leadership communication is catching on. Pretty soon, there won’t be a company that doesn’t have a new plan for communicating and engaging better. Through leadership communication, employees are able to embrace consistent and open communication. Individuals are empowered to ask questions and raise concerns with leadership acknowledging them. But before any of this can happen, it starts with strategic communication and a few key actions:
1. The listening angle can’t be overlooked. A profound part of leadership communication means listening to what employees have to say. MIT studies this and offers suggestions to include a deeper collaboration in the workforce. Employees want to be seen and feel valued. Engaging in active listening is another bionic power. Listen, really hear, implement ideas and execute. Be sure to follow up and close the loop. Your employees will notice and appreciate the follow-through.
2. Don’t be a jerk at work — just be nice. Robert I. Sutton, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, talks about maximizing productivity while minimizing what he calls “friction.” His research studies workforce improvements. One book title you may recognize is The No Asshole Rule. He also spoke on the podcast “Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast” about the importance of not being a jerk at work and how to hone and enhance your communication. According to Sutton, leaders must simply be clear about where employees should and should not focus attention.
3. Know your communication style. It is all too rare for CEOs and executive leaders to know their communication style and shine. Do you know yours? A leader who gets it and invests in this skill brings precision, understanding and control to communication, no matter what message they want to get across. They must use strategic communication to deliver it with transparency, explaining what is happening and the reasons for it. While it’s okay for it to come across as firm, just be clear while being kind. Employees on the receiving end appreciate openness and clarity. If you’re a leader and you want to unleash your communication style, or even need to learn a more effective way to communicate, find other leaders, experts or friends to help you identify areas for growth.
Honest, simple, clear, effective corporate communication — now that’s a superpower.
Beth Jannery is founder of Titan Strategic Communication and advises about Strategic Communication and Workforce Trends for high-growth clients.
Read Beth Jannery’s full executive profile here.