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Shared Ownership Makes Communication Effective

If the company is a start-up or one which is in its early growth phase with limited operations, then there is less likelihood for the communication head to be unaware as the information flow is fluid

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It is a common situation in the life of communication professionals when they get to hear news related to their company from the market or internally receive the information so late that there will be no time to strategize and create a good campaign. 

Not only it is an opportunity lost for creating a good brand campaign, but also reflects poorly on the capability and credentials of the communication professional – isn’t it? But who is to be blamed for such a blatant communication gap?

If the company is a start-up or one which is in its early growth phase with limited operations, then there is less likelihood for the communication head to be unaware as the information flow is fluid. But things get more complicated when the entity concerned is a diversified conglomerate with several verticals and with a multi-country presence. In such a situation keeping a tab on the happenings (both positive and negative) over the entire network becomes quite challenging. 

Neither communication people nor business heads can afford to work in silos. To explain with an analogy, the corporate communications department (CCD) is like a super specialty multi-cuisine restaurant. Here, the customer is the media, waiter is the media relations person, chef is the strategy and content creator and the raw material suppliers for the cooking are the information sources from the various businesses. The restaurant runs well only if the orders placed (equivalent to ‘good stories’ for the media) are served well, piping hot, and in good time. But what if the raw materials do not reach the kitchen in time, or are supplied in random quantities? It can result in massive customer dissatisfaction, and the waiter, and even the chef, are likely to be in the line of fire from irate customers. Do they deserve that when they hardly had any role in the crisis? 

Then who is to be blamed? Had the raw material supplier delivered the required materials in right time and quantity, the situation could have been averted. Similarly, only if the individual departments / project sites and businesses provide the inputs in time to the corporate communication department, the coverage would be better leading to satisfied stakeholders. But failure to do so not only results in reputational loss for the company but also leads to financial losses.

A new research by Grammarly and The Harris Poll has actually quantified the potential loss from poor workplace communication. The “State of Business Communication” survey of business leaders and knowledge workers estimates that lack of communication costs US businesses an annual loss of USD 1.2 trillion — or approximately USD 12,506 per employee every year.

Businesses and senior management are the generators of the news, CCD can only strategize and amplify those so that corporate messages can reach the concerned stakeholders yielding the desired results. But many a time the CCD lacks the confidence of the business heads who themselves often have a limited understanding of news – what is seemingly normal to them, may actually be a great story in the media. 

What the business heads miss out on is seeing the bigger picture. So, the basic question is:

1.How to create a bond of trust between CCD and the various businesses and board members?

2.How to build channels that will allow timely flow of information with required approvals and reduce the communication gap?

From my experience, I can think of 4 steps to handle the situation:

1. Start a process of frequent communication

For businesses to take CCD seriously, it itself has to reach out to the businesses to understand their priorities and constraints. Establishing a channel of communication is the best first step towards building trust, but the flow of information has to be clear, open and frequent.

2. Incrementally build relationships with businesses

CCD can build a lot of trust if it proactively conducts short-term communication activities with the departments and also collaborates with them on significant activities.

3. Make trustworthy employees ambassadors

Each department can identify trustworthy employees who represent it every day and know the company very well, and appoint them as internal ambassadors. They can also help in ensuring flow of timely and authentic information.

4. Remove communication barrier

Identify and remove any barrier that prevents or disables CCD to receive right message from departments at the right time. The barrier can either be because of physical distance or emotional reasons like fear or distrust. To break down these barriers, CCD must start with understanding the business and people associated with them and get familiar with the department structure to properly assess the flow of communication within the hierarchy.

In this digital age when news is instantaneous, no company can afford to overlook the importance of timely dissemination of information. However, it cannot be CCD’s responsibility alone. It has to be the joint responsibility of all stakeholders and the CCD team to engage in regular interaction so that communication can emerge as a strategic tool for the company’s growth. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
Ownership business strategy communication

Yuvraj Mehta

Head, Corporate Brand Management & Communications, Larsen & Toubro

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