Posture, People and Platforms: The Three P’s of Effective Communication

Several times during my career, new employers asked me to re-build the organization’s communications function from scratch with little or no allegiance to the operating model of the past.  That is an exciting proposition, but it also comes with its own set of unique challenges.

Every time you build something, and with the benefit of hindsight, you learn what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to starting from scratch.  As a veteran architect of several re-building projects, here are three important lessons to think about when you or your organization modernize your communications function:

Posture

Just like organizations have an operational culture and history that transcends leadership changes, companies and not-for-profit groups have an inherent posture that tends to guide strategic communications engagement.  Some organizations are cautious and avoid the media as much as practicable.  Others are dogged in their drive to project its message among the organization’s sphere of influence.

It is important to understand where your organization lies on the spectrum to build an effective communications function.  Is the company – and its leadership – aggressive when it comes to crisis communications?  Are they pro-active when it comes to message delivery and social media engagement? Or is it cautious and risk averse?  Before you create the blueprint for success you need answers to these questions because organizational and professional success hinges on the answers.

People

Don’t exclusively outsource your talent procurement to HR.  Take direct charge.  It is time consuming, but your involvement benefits you and the organization in the long run.  In Washington, D.C., for example, a lot of resumes look the same – Capitol Hill press office, federal agency public affairs office experience, public affairs account work at a public relations shop, etc.

Only a discerning eye can tell the rock stars from the pretenders.  It is important for you to invest personally in the recruitment and hiring process.  Recruit the experts you trust from past jobs. Review every resume that comes in. Personally interview not just three or four candidates, but two-dozen.

This will help you find the most talented team members and ensure their personality meshes with the chemistry of your team.

Platforms

This is the most overlooked piece of the strategic communications puzzle in most organizations.  You have just gathered up a bunch of smart and savvy communications professionals. Now you need to arm them with the tools they need to promote and defend the organization.

They need a budget for modernizing the Web site.  They need resources to create or expand your social media reach.   They need access to state of the art media monitoring and media lists.  They need resources to identify, recruit and train allied third party spokespeople needed to project your positive story and defend against attacks.  They need organizational permission to engage external stakeholders to tell your story in an effective and ongoing way.

Rebuilding takes time and patience, but of course the world doesn’t stop turning while you are developing the blueprint for the future.  Issues need to be confronted, communications plans written and then there is a seemingly endless litany of crisis communications challenges no one can predict.

Communications professionals that cover their bases with The Three P’s will have greater success in meeting organizational and personal goals in strategic communications.

Sean McBride, Founder and Principal of DSM Strategic Communications & Consulting, is former Executive Vice President of Communications and Membership Services for the Grocery Manufacturers Association and former Director of Communications at the American Beverage Association