Corporate communication has never been an easy or straightforward matter. The business world sees professionals from all different backgrounds interacting in bustling, stressful environments — the sheer diversity of languages, rhetorical behaviors and personality types is enough to make one’s head spin. This Tower of Babel-esque situation has been dramatically compounded in the modern age, with modes, mediums, technologies and platforms of communication proliferating at breakneck speeds.
Whether it’s public relations or internal communications, directors, managers and executives who oversee the written and spoken words of an organization face one doozy of a task. Rather than discussing specific social media marketing tactics or another listicle on how to speak to your employees, let us take a moment to evaluate general tactics and considerations that help to identify balanced, efficient common-speak in today’s corporate landscape.
Adaptation: A Two-Way Street
An effective, centralized communications strategy balances how much the business adapts to the employees entering the workplace and to what degree those professionals will be expected to adapt to the communications culture of the company. Despite sitting at the foundation of corporate communications, this balance is seldom discussed and (likely) rarely discussed in a corporate boardroom.
I work at a company that certainly falls into the territory of a Babel-esque communication risk, as countless backgrounds and personality types are represented – techies, salespeople, literary types, nerds, jocks – you name it, we got it. Internal communications are one matter, but client interactions are an entirely different story, as we primarily work with some of the finest rhetoricians around — attorneys. Long proposals, quick emails and all communications in between are scrutinized in epic fashion, especially given the sensitivity of the work we complete.
Somehow we managed to find ways to speak the same language, all while building and maintaining exceptional relationships with our clientele. Like so many other businesses that made the jump from startup to midsize in the proverbial blink of the eye, the communications culture crept out of the primordial ooze and blossomed into this cosmic, unified language that (incredibly) worked for everyone.
As a business grows, its language and communications culture will have to adapt and transform but remain standardized at any given time to avoid minor to major issues with corporate efficiency, performance and progress.
This is where the two-way-street element of corporate communications culture comes into play. First, the language needs to grow and refine itself naturally. Then, leaders must take purposeful, substantive steps to keep it all under control, adding in some clear definitions and essentially turning abstract culture into firm policies of sorts.
Standardization: People, Process, Technology
Any strategy will live and die with its functional ability to unify people, process and technology. As such, communications policies and strategies must swiftly and coherently cover all bases in this triad of management frameworks.
A few elements that might be helpful for each include:
• People: onboarding, training, and monitoring frameworks that help all employees adapt to the corporate culture of communication and stay on the same page throughout their tenures. Employee feedback and perspectives can be invaluable when building these frameworks out.
• Process: policies that govern everything from email and conference-call etiquette to information sharing and knowledge management. There should be a governance web that guides communication in each department and across the business as a whole.
• Technology: management and governance statutes that control the use of devices and applications as they relate to both internal and client-facing communications. Chief technology officers should be highly involved in the development of such rules.
At the end of the day, communications managers, directors and executives will need to customize the governance of people, processes and technologies in accordance with their unique corporate cultures. There is no cut-and-paste solution to the Babel-esque challenges faced in each business environment today.
The goal here should always be standardizing and unifying the communications culture of the business, building off of strengths and learning from weaknesses every step of the way. These policies should be viewed as agile yet steady compasses for directing all personnel.
Justification: Attaining Buy-In
Directors and executives alike will often run into issues when trying to gain buy-in from the C-Suite, floor-level employees and everyone in between. Once communications strategies have been properly standardized, buy-in will be the final challenge that needs to be hurdled, and it is arguably the most difficult.
This is where employee feedback and insights will be invaluable. For example, if three-quarters of personnel prefer to use a specific device that policies prohibit in the workplace, buy-in will be unattainable. Or if the C-Suite has not been involved in the manifestation of policies and procedures, chances are there will be some significant demands for adjustments and changes once the complex web of governance is already established.
So, communications directors and executives need to do what they do best: Communicate. Get feedback throughout the process of overhauling or establishing the standardized, unified, common language and communications culture of the business, and attaining buy-in will be a far more straightforward, speedy and seamless pursuit.
Do not let the threat of Babel-esque communication quandaries hinder your company’s performance. Adapt, standardize and modernize in every possible way to rescue your colleagues from the perils of modern corporate dialogue.