The “Perfect Fit” is what an organization needs to be communicating at a specific moment for its story to unfold properly. Communicators are often blessed—or plagued—with multiple choices to communicate to the world that are plucked from myriad business functions, product and service areas, announcements, events, processes, geographic areas and personnel moves.
At the senior-most levels of the company, where there’s often an eagerness to build momentum, executives want to tell a variety of stories at once, often a hodgepodge of news about products, services, technologies, environmental initiatives and investments, among other topics.
What’s often missing is the apparent linkage among the stories.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '21 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
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As chief storyteller, however, the communicator must identify the Perfect Fit: the next chapter in the organization’s evolution that both strategy and logic dictate deserves to be told now in order to build or sustain organizational momentum. And it’s important that the communicator know how to identify each successive chapter.
Think of a puzzle that reflects your company’s value, purpose and future direction. And with each moment or milestone, a puzzle piece so to speak is identified and communicated to continue filling out the picture.
Identifying the perfect fit
Knowing that you need to create the Perfect Fit is different from knowing how to identify it. Sometimes it’s easy: if your industry’s leading trade publications or national business media claim you’re the best at what you do, you’ll probably want to build on that reputation. But for most organizations, the Perfect Fit is harder to come by, particularly in transformational or change efforts when all bets are off with regard to past practices, brand image or corporate reputation. Fortunately, identifying the Perfect Fit requires the same skills and strategies that many corporate communicators leverage every day.
An integral objective to achieving alignment in narrative is the ability to view and manage communications—both internal and external—in a synergistic manner. Establishing a Situation Room is a key approach that demands a frequent coming together of all communication areas comprising internal and external stakeholders. It’s here that a disciplined—yet fluid—methodology is employed to guide discussion and inform decisions regarding the business and the right sequence, channel and cadence for communications. The purpose: a coherent, clear and believable story that allows people to follow the organization, increasing both interest and affinity in its success.
Powering the Situation Room process is an analytics-based system that continually identifies stakeholder needs, concerns and interests to allow communicators to view the business from the “outside in” and “inside out” in order to best determine how the story needs to evolve.
A look ahead
A critical component of the business’ context is a look forward, trying to anticipate external events that may have a positive or negative effect on the business. Anticipating these events can establish an understanding of impact to help in contingency planning.
Answering these questions—certainly not a simple task if approached seriously—allows communicators and managers to inform decisions and plot priorities. The act of answering these questions also facilitates an open, ongoing dialogue between all communication functions and ensures that internal and external communication are in sync. A complete picture of the company, its audiences and its marketplace is painted, often for the first time.
Ultimately, the answers are the only things that truly enable a company to develop a cohesive story inside and outside the organization: who we are, where we’re going, how we define the future, short-and long-term goals and how success is defined and measured.
To identify the Perfect Fit, it’s imperative that organizations do several things:
- Integrate functions and departments that currently exist in solos.
- Gear communication toward whatever is promoting momentum and growth in the marketplace.
- Understand the factors critical to the organization’s success, such as quality, cost reduction and an ability to deliver cutting-edge products.
- Take a realistic view of consumer opinions and media interest.
Acting on the information: telling the story
It’s critical that someone—preferably the company’s chief communicator—serve as a mediator to keep the storytelling process moving. The chief communicator acts as chief strategist. They’re in sync with leadership, defining the Perfect Fit for vital segments of the organization, constantly reiterating why it’s the priority message, mapping out how this chapter will be told inside and outside the company—from media, investor and employee perspectives—and putting measurements in place to ensure the story is received as planned. Ultimately, the chief communicator determines when the next piece of the puzzle must happen to make sure the story stays on course and sustains momentum.
Staying on course is about sensing and responding, rather than force-feeding. Too often, companies make the mistake of telling or selling stakeholders instead of allowing people to discover the story for themselves in a manner that reflects their interests, needs, concerns and satisfaction.
Gary Grates is Principal at Real Chemistry.