Communications issues for 2011

8 02 2011

2010 brought plenty of reminders that words are powerful.

Whether it was a question of transparency or terrorism (WikiLeaks) or a serious case of crisis communication (BP oil spill), the value of thoughtful, well-crafted messages was never more apparent.

Looking ahead to 2011, The Communicator — a great blog for communications professionals authored by industry veteran Peter Schram — recently posted its top 11 issues facing the profession this year.

Here are five highlights:

1. Working with new audiences: Communications pros used to focus on a core group of audiences (traditional media, customers, employees, executives), but those days are over. “This year,” Schram writes, “plan to spend significantly more time on new and influential audiences such as environmental groups, transparency watchdogs and local influencers.”

2. Reducing environmental footprint: Schram points out that the communications department is one of the biggest users of paper in most offices. Building on the ideas of environmental responsibility and brand management, companies will create programs “that both protect the environment and stand as an example to peers, customers and suppliers.”

3. Coaching executives: In Schram’s opinion, the events of 2010 showed that most executives need better crisis and communications training. He expects that communicators will focus more on coaching executives on how to stay cool under pressure and stick to key messages.

4. Communicating with mobile audiences: With smart phones now the norm and e-readers continuing to grow in popularity, communications pros must adapt. Schram writes: “As consumers and audiences migrate more of their communications activities onto mobile devices, professional communicators will need to pick up new skills and strategies to make the most of these new channels.”

5. Writing to differentiate: “No matter how fast technology moves or what new devices are offered on the market,” Schram writes, “one thing always remains a constant: the written word.” With all the new channels available to communicators, Schram argues that most will find that their corporate writing style is about the only thing that really differentiates them from their competition.

Is Schram right on with his predictions? Are there other issues that will take communications pros by surprise in 2011? Regardless of the year, one thing’s for sure: Communication works for those who work at it.


5 ways a skilled writer can impact your company’s bottom line

7 01 2011

Good communication is essential to any successful endeavor, and none more so than business.

How a company communicates both internally and externally can make or break it, and at the core of good communication is skillful, polished writing.

Here are five ways a top-notch writer or team of writers can impact your organization:

1. Corporate branding: Besides advertising, corporate communications is your only means of communicating with the public. What is your message? What are your values? What sets you apart from the competition? You might have a fantastic product or offer the greatest service in the world, but if you can’t make that clear to the public and inspire people to act, you miss out. It takes creative, skillful writing to tell your company’s story and keep the public interested.

2. Social responsibility/crisis communication: This one is closely related to corporate branding, but it’s become so important in recent years that it deserves its own entry. The Internet and social media have enabled consumers to connect across town and national borders, and search tools have enabled people to identify common experiences. Being viewed as a socially responsible company is good business, and it’s crucial to choose your words carefully when making your case. In the same vein, dealing with a crisis requires careful consideration and top-notch writing to convey the message.

3. Senior executive presentation: Businessmen and women who have reached the c-suite level are obviously intelligent and dynamic, but the majority of them aren’t great writers. They might be adequate, but their writing usually doesn’t do justice to their intelligence and expertise. This is nothing to be ashamed of; most professional writers are terrible at math and wouldn’t know the first thing about running a sales team. It’s important for high-level executives to know their limitations when it comes to writing, because there’s nothing worse than a letter, speech or presentation by a senior exec that is mediocre — it reflects badly on the entire company. Trust a pro, and he/she will make you sound as smart as you are.

4. Internal communication: Sharing information with employees, building employee pride and managing employee issues are essential to a healthy corporate culture. Skilled writers are able to write polished speeches for CEOs as well as material that informs and resonates with employees. Being able to write in various voices and for varied audiences is a skill that professional writers develop over time.

5. Press management: An effective corporate communications writer grasps many of the same principles that those in the press do. They both understand the importance of clarity, accuracy and identifying the key point or points in a story. In media writing, the paragraph that explains the news value of the story is called the “nut graph,” which is a reference to “in a nutshell.” Ideally, a corporate communications writer has experience on the media side, and thus knows how journalists think and what they are looking for. Press management is critical to shaping a company’s image.

Smart business leaders know that a company that doesn’t communicate well is like a sales professional who doesn’t speak well — it just isn’t going to work. And the cornerstone of effective corporate communications is great writing.

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