Improving Organizations’ Communications

Paul O'BrienAdvocacy, Education, Engagement10 Comments

It’s a stale and boring headline but I’ll be honest, I really couldn’t come up with a more buzzfeed-worthy attention grabber, nor SEO targeted phrase, because the root of the thought here is really this simple: Today’s organizations suck at communications.

According to a survey of 4,000 employees, almost half were unsure of what was being asked of them.

HR magazine

Bear with me though, it’s not their fault. At least, not these days.

It was indeed once true that the flyer on the wall, in the backpack, or in the mail, was all that was needed to make sure most everyone who needed to know, knew. At least we can agree, I hope, that no longer cuts it.

In chewing on what “organizations” are struggling with in communications, it dawned on me that while we’re exploring the issue as a company, my kids’ school has the same challenges. Can we all easily do better?

A thought occurred: successful startups and VCs communicate effectively because it’s critical. How do we learn from them?

Why learn from Startups and Venture Capitalists? Because they tend to be on the leading edge of technology considerations, comprised of dynamic teams, and doing high reward/high risk work wherein that communication is critical.

What never works, learned therein?
Using a single communications platform (which I know many keep trying in hopes of a savior) or focusing on one or few channels (“well, we sent an email!“)

The challenge today is that we all communicate and consume in real time, on demand, and as we each prefer. Where once, a message sent was likely received by all (or at least most), now the two way relationship between communicator and receiver has changed; with the receiver being empowered to decide HOW and WHEN they receive. The communicator must participate on the receivers’ terms if they hope to be heard.

What works might be appreciated as trickle down communication, with explicit direction.

Trickle Down Communication

Trickle down to distinct groups, 5 bi weekly briefs:

  1. To the team
  2. To executives
  3. To stakeholders and supporters
  4. To investors
  5. To Marketing

Notice what’s not there: to everyone.

We used to live in a world where that 1 email, that one meeting, that one office flyer, or that one letter mailed, would reach and communicate with everyone. If I can impart upon you ONE lesson only, it’s that that no longer works.

Trickle down your communication to distinct groups, who can further and more effectively communicate what matters within their audience.

Appreciate of course that I’ve shared that point of view from a perspective of a business or startup; let’s translate it to any other organization. Just this week, as an example, we’ve met with a series of organizations in the military, in formal education (Universities), and with cities. The same approach applies:

  1. To the team – all of the people formally involved in your organization
  2. To executives – specifically to leadership
  3. To stakeholders and supporters – a more public message but sent to those who align with and serve what you’re doing
  4. To investors – does every organization not have investors? Yes! What of donors, volunteers, sponsors, or partners?
  5. To Marketing – enabling and turning to the marketing expertise to further communicate publicly, to customers, bloggers, on social media, and more.

How to Communicate to Organizations

What I’m exploring in MediaTech Ventures is that three ways might be ideal (aside from meeting of course):

  1. Email
  2. Voice (podcast)
  3. Social Media

In each, be explicit in direction that furthers communication, “DO THIS”

  • Share [this] Facebook post
  • Forward this to…
  • Include [that] in our newsletter
  • Tag [these people] on Twitter

The people in those sub groups to whom we’ve trickled down then accomplish three things:

  1. They broaden our messages to their audiences
  2. They focus the messages on what they do best
  3. We, collectively, scale our reach and the impact of messages

As they pass down their focus and directions to their subgroups, each degree of broader reach gets more specialized to focus the message, ask, and action of the subsequent, larger, group.

What to Use to Communicate to Organizations

Our specialty (and let me know if we can help you) is in keeping pace with the innovations in media – the tools and technologies to which you can turn to do these things more effectively. So let’s wrap with a few suggestions…

ONE: EMAIL

Take a look at Accelo.

It’s a platform that, on the surface of it, looks like a service business client management suite, and in a sense, it is. I want to encourage you take a look at it thought because effective communication in an organization is a service, and our 5 groups are, essentially, clients.

Where one-to-one or one-to-many email (like we send with Gmail) and newsletters fall short, is that they think in terms of the quality of the email exchange or the performance of an email sent. That is, they’re optimized for reception and engagement. Sales CRMs, newsletter platforms, and marketing automation suites are typically optimized to SELL.

In organizational communication, our key metric isn’t an open or conversion rate, it’s KNOWING our “clients” and serving them meaningful communications.

Accelo’s CRM with email with scheduling with project management, all integrated even WITH things like Hubspot, Gmail, and Slack, give us a means of organizational communication that is meaningfully many to many.

TWO: VOICE (podcast)

If you were working during or before the 1990s, you’ll not-so-fondly recall the company conference call. In the pre-internet era, that one-to-many philosophy controlled by the Communicator worked because the CEO’s monthly “call” had everyone listening in.

What now??

We hear the hype and enthusiasm for podcasting but let’s be frank, most of us have no idea HOW to do that, let alone doing it with great quality, effectively, and meaningfully. And even if you are recording a message to be heard, do you publish it to SoundClound? iTunes? Spotify? YouTube?

We’re fans of what uStudio has been doing for enterprise podcasts; enabling a company to speak within through podcasting – providing company updates, sales training, news, or interviews to hear, “over the air.”

Record and publish your communications to a platform where you control the subgroups that receive and can listen to the message – all in one solution.

And to explore the most innovative ways to record and produce a great message? Keep tabs on Product Hunt where the podcast industry is releasing incredible new technologies at breakneck speed. Imagine an AI that cleans up the recording quality of your messages. Need a auto-transcription solution to turn words to text? Easy. There’s even work being done whereby you can edit words within your recording and replace them with computer generated alternatives that sound just like you.

I’ve been look at Alitu, Ringr, and Music Maker to stitch together a production suite and RODE’s Rodecaster Pro is an incredible studio in a box.

THREE: SOCIAL MEDIA

Let’s cut to the chase… there is no way around the fact that you must use the many social media channels directly so that you use them best as designed.

This consideration is really why we’re encouraging this Trickle Down Communications idea… some people consume Twitter, others Instagram, some prefer Facebook, and still more only use a platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Best advice? Start writing.

We shared a popular guide, Creating Content that Impacts, which I’ll leave you with as a next step.

There, how best to blog so that it actually works (as I know many of you think it doesn’t). From that, how to best use the big FIVE:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Medium
  • Facebook
  • Quora

To extend your reach by translating your messages to the key points and audiences pertinent to those channels.

This is where this trickle down thought works best, and you must give direction, that you’re looking to your Executives, as one of those groups, to best use THEIR channels to send further those internal and leadership oriented messages; or you’re looking to your Stakeholders to more publicly engage with social media so that the reach of your messages extend far beyond your followers alone.

Being the data wonk that I am, imagine my pleasant surprise to find that there is in fact even analytical and optimization work being done on behalf of meeting and communication performance. Already a huge fan of Prowess Project, and the work they’re doing to help drive operational efficiency, let me leave you too with vyopta, which helps monitor everything. Together, it seems, you might have the solutions you need to account for, track, and optimize what’s being said to your organizations.

Pop here to learn about creating content that impacts and if we can help you first hand, let us know; this matters.

10 Comments on “Improving Organizations’ Communications”

  1. So what’s your hot take on the effectiveness of things like Mailchimp?

  2. Enlightened way to think of it! Flyer on the wall doesn’t cut it because we’re not fully focused on receiving through limited channels. I wonder how many other leaders are afraid of a podcast because it might not succeed? How many people in your organization for that to be a useful tool?

  3. Yep, well said. We’re all so focused on a vague and intangible definition of “success,” that most are just paralyzed from doing anything.

  4. Susie how incredible of you to say! Thank you. Often times I write just to spit out ideas bubbling in my head, unsure of how they’ll be received or if meaningful at all. This means more than I can say, just to hear that it struck a chord with someone <3

  5. Aren’t spiders webs amazing – the different pathways, the circles, the glittering water droplets, the strength and the stickiness of the threads, what is there not to like – oh unless you mean the giant spider.

  6. I liked the subtle message the visual sends affiliated with my thought…. Communication really has to be thought of as a web of connections now, and the web is what makes that possible, and required.

  7. Two dimensional though 😉 hub and spoke models are interesting – I like the informal connectivity as much as the formal hierarchical or even matrix methodologies. VSM is fractal and that uses communication as one of its key ingredients. – I still like the glittering water droplets.

  8. Comms is a form of education. I think more edu pros would agree that different people learn in different ways. Point being, if you’re taking a OSFA approach (with regards to medium / tool / channel) then you could be coming up short.

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