For most companies, the beginning of the year is a time to rally the troops – it’s a time to get laser focused on the company’s strategy. It’s also a natural time to communicate annual goals and the role individuals, teams, and organizations play in bringing that strategy to life.
Sound familiar? I hope so. In fact, I love the sense of systems and renewal within the seasons society has engrained in us. Every January feels like a fresh start – an opportunity to hover up to the ‘big picture’ and set a roadmap for the year ahead.
That said, all too often the “big push” for strategy communications comes early and often in the beginning of the year – the email from the CEO outlining the strategy, the brand-new intranet page with the supporting detail, and the cascading of performance goals and measures throughout the organization. While these activities are mission-critical for setting the baseline, communicating company strategy is an evolving, engaging, and multi-channeled experience – more like a constant and consistent conversation vs. a “one and done” approach.
Once the strategy is rolled out and the goals are set, it’s about tending the fire and making it real. Along the way, you have to help people see themselves in the strategy – empowering them to contribute to the whole, trusting their intelligence, and highlighting proof points in a consistent and multi-dimensional way.
How? Keep these guiding principles in mind:
Think of strategy communications like an editorial calendar. How are you going to keep it alive all year? Instead of thinking of your January kick off meeting as a ‘one time communications event’ think of it as the start of a conversation, and how you might leverage all hands, company meetings, town halls, to continue and build on the dialogue throughout the year.
Nothing communicates strategy and business outcomes better than a customer voice or a proof point from the outside. High-profile, big name customers are fantastic, but can be challenging to secure. Try looking to your smaller customers that may not have the big name, but could tell an interesting story about how your company’s products or services enable them to meet the needs of their customers.
So easy to say, so challenging to do. Be sure to vet and pilot strategy messaging and approach with a global audience. Phrasing and timing are nuanced and even the most seasoned communications professional can miss this from time to time.
Big “C” communications – the all-hands meetings, the formal organizational announcements – are critical, but they aren’t the only way to communicate strategy. There is real power in the small, day-to-day conversations (i.e., little “c” communications) that help individuals and teams gain understanding and meaning for themselves.
Communicating strategy can’t be a “one and done activity” – it’s a conversation, a lifestyle, a muscle that must be built with intention and rigor. Here’s to keeping your company’s strategy alive, purposeful and thriving all year long!