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Business communication: walk before you run

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When it comes to getting your strategic communications right, as a business, my advice for you today is: walk before you run.

What do I mean by that?  Well, I think sometimes as business leaders we can often be bamboozled into thinking our competitors and business colleagues are all doing the right things and we’re the only ones on the backfoot.  And our perceived inadequacy often rears its ugly head when you hear about businesses jumping onto the latest social media channel or using a new communications tool.

For instance, isn’t every business already on TikTok?  Shouldn’t you have a YouTube channel?  Podcasting – isn’t everyone doing it?  ‘No,’ ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ are the answers, by the way!

Don’t fall into the trap of being pressured to start using the latest and greatest communications medium if you haven’t already got the basics right.

If you’re not sure if you’ve got your business communication basics sorted, here are four foundations to put in place:

Internal first

The most important audience for any business is your staff.  Be sure they feel well-informed about your business direction, excited about where it’s heading and ready to be an active participant in achieving goals.  And don’t assume if you told them once, they’ve got it.  You need to communicate with staff regularly and repeat messages often.

Your staff have potential to be your strongest ambassadors or your biggest detractors. By prioritising your internal communication and staff relationships, you’ll find your external communications will go more smoothly.

Direct communication

I’ve seen organisations prioritise external channels, such as media publicity, before communicating directly to the external audiences who matter most to their business – namely customers. 

Direct communications with priority audiences often doesn’t happen because it’s difficult.  Many times businesses haven’t thought about gathering customer details or the details they do have are incomplete (for instance, you’ve got a phone number but no email). 

New Zealand’s anti-spam laws also pose a big communication roadblock.  You can’t send any email communication to anyone unless the person opted in.  If your data collection methods haven’t kept up with this law, then you’ve got a major communication challenge on your hands.

However, I urge you to figure out a solution.  Rather than giving up and putting direct communication in the ‘too hard basket,’ the potential return on investment makes getting it sorted worth it.

Multi-channel storytelling

Your business won’t have longevity in your sector unless your customers, stakeholders and community trust you.  And you can’t build trust if the only messages they see in the market are ‘buy my products.’

One of the best ways to build trust is to tell stories about your business, your customers, your staff and the impact you are making on the marketplace and in your community.  People want to see the stories behind the product or service you are selling.

When you are consistent with your storytelling and use many different channels to get those stories in front of your audiences repeatedly, you’ll reap the reward of improved brand loyalty.

Relationship development

Strong and positive relationships are the backbone of any business, whether that be with your staff, customers, partners, suppliers, industry stakeholders, near-neighbours or others.

If your relationships suffer, your revenues and profits will most likely dip too.

The mistake many businesses make is expecting their key relationships to develop ‘organically.’  This is erroneous thinking. 

Think of the most important relationships in your personal life – with your partner, kids, family.  You need to invest time in these people so they realise you care.  The same rules apply in business.

So think about all your stakeholders and be proactive in developing ways to keep in touch and demonstrate your appreciation for the part they play in your business success.

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About Author

Heather Claycomb

Heather Claycomb is director of HMC, a Hamilton-based, award-winning public relations agency.