Building Your Firm’s Communication Capital (part 1)

In a world that is full of information (both junk and gem), clear communication is precious. Leaders of the information age have to learn how to build their firms’ communication capital by the choice of their engagements, especially with the media and their stakeholders.

It has been found that firms that clearly communicate their strategy command a higher MVA (market value added) and EVA (Economic value added) than firms that do not (Aspatore Books, 2002). Therefore after formulating the firm’s strategy, the CEO must then communicate it internally first to the firm’s employees, who will feel the impact and bear the brunt of decisions made on top. Buy-in has to be sought and concerns addressed. Simultaneously (sometimes), the decision has to be communicated outwards to the public and more importantly, the shareholders.

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez speaking to the students

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez (Photo credit: Novartis AG)

In each message, going out internally and externally, tweaks have to be made as the recipients are different in what they expect to do with what they have heard. However, whether the recipients are internal stakeholders who are the middle managers, the executive level staff, and those who are playing a back-end role, or shareholders and the public hearing the message, these few points remain constant:

1. Where we are now and where we are heading

2. The gap we will face if we continue along the same trajectory path that we are on now.

3. What we have to do close the gap.

These are the basics of strategy crafting and they apply likewise to communication. People want to know where everything is heading and for that to happen, you need to engage in big picture talk. Give them an overview. Paint it in technicolour in their minds’ eye. Then let them know the facts and figures if the current trajectory does not change.

Finally, engage them in laying out what will be done or needs to be done in order to change that trajectory to be on the path towards the picture that you had earlier painted in their minds. This will require broad strokes painted on execution. Following that of course, you will have to work with the middle-managers to flesh out the details of execution. With these, the basics of a communication speech have been met – logos (logic), ethos (credibility), mythos (setting, cultural background), and pathos (emotions). This works across all media – be it a speech or on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

When a message communicates to stir the emotions, appeal to logic, build credibility with an understanding of the trends, culture, and environment that surrounds the listeners, it will build your firm’s communication capital and lead not just internal but also external stakeholders to align to the vision of the firm. When they begin to buy-in to what you have to say, you have half your battle won in getting to where you need to be.


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