What Is Strategic Communications?

Written by Rebecca Turley

strategic communications

“Communication is the real work of leadership.”

Business consultants have long extolled the value of communication for leaders. “Communicate! Communicate well! Communicate often!” they say.

But it’s quite possible to communicate each and every day, all day long and still not accomplish what you set out to do. In short, there’s a distinct difference between communicating and strategically communicating, and it all lies with intention.

If you want to inspire and motivate your team to respect what you’re saying, comprehend your message, and act with purpose and passion to achieve organizational goals, you’ll need to make sure your communication strategies are meaningful and intentional.

How to Use Strategic Communications to Achieve Organizational Objectives

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

Strategic communications is about making communication purposeful and deliberate. While it’s a given that all leaders must be able to communicate messages to the teams and employees they serve, those who consider the value of strategic communications are far more likely to reach their organizational goals while also keeping their team motivated and inspired to perform.

An effective strategic communications plan should include:

Determining Your Approach

female presentingHow will you get your message across? If you push too hard, your employees may push back, lose motivation, or crumble under the pressure. But if you don’t push them enough, you may miss deadlines or fail to get initiatives off the ground.

Leaders must be able to effectively influence those they lead, but finding the right approach, the right rhythm takes focus, patience, and a clear understanding of your team’s weaknesses and strengths. For example, an experienced, veteran team can easily rise to the occasion and accomplish specific goals if your approach is zealous and impassioned. But the same approach with a less experienced, less seasoned team would simply fall flat and result in stress, confusion, and low morale.

Leaders must be willing to recognize differences in ability, motivation, experience, and attitude so they can adjust their communication strategy accordingly. Strategic communications also includes understanding and appreciating the desire, emotions, beliefs, and values of those you lead.

Simply changing your approach can mean the difference between harmony and discord. For example, a show of support and empathy for the members of your team during a stressful period goes a long way in building trust and nurturing a strong team environment. Check in on them… host a team-building event outside of the office… encourage them to reach out with their questions and concerns – your efforts won’t go unnoticed.

Determining the Communication Channel

How will you communicate the message to your team? Does this message require a formal meeting, or will an email suffice?

Strategic communications includes a consideration of whether the issue calls for informal or formal communication, how quickly you need to disseminate the information, and the goal you want to achieve. With a myriad of communication channels available, leaders must know when and where each one is most effective.

For example, an email can be an excellent way to convey the information you want to share in a clear, concise manner, but it can also be viewed as impersonal. And while an in-person meeting is a great opportunity to encourage constructive dialogue and feedback with the members of your team, some team members may be hesitant to voice their opinion in a group setting.

Determining How Much Information to Communicate and When

Leaders often serve as translators who are tasked with breaking down corporate priorities and objectives into manageable, easy-to-understand assignments or projects.

Leaders must take in and synthesize large amounts of information to fully understand company goals and craft organizational objectives to meet these goals. But disseminating all of this information to your team, all at once, can backfire and cause turmoil. As the old saying goes, “It’s like drinking from a fire hose.” You’re bound to create an overwhelmed team that comes away more confused than informed.

Therefore, strategic communications includes deciding how much information to share with your team and when, and about making sense out of large amounts of information and breaking it down into easily assimilated components using language that’s easy to understand.

Tips for Building Your Communications Strategy

planning strategy

Strategic communications should remain an ongoing consideration for leaders and should never be viewed as a one-and-done endeavor. In other words, your strategies, communication channels, and other considerations should always be fine-tuned and adjusted to meet each specific objective or goal.

You can always build upon your strategic communications efforts by:

Encouraging Dialogue

Strategic communications doesn’t just mean a one-way exchange of information. Instead of preaching or merely presenting information, start a dialogue with your team and encourage them to contribute their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Leaders who encourage open, honest exchanges of information have teams who are more likely to rally around their ideas and mission.

Keeping Your Message Consistent

You can utilize various communications channels, switch up your approach, and try a number of different strategies as you see fit, provided you keep your message consistent. Reiterate the organizational objective and goals to keep your team focused and on task.

Learning From Your Mistakes

Not all strategies will produce perfect results, so be prepared to consider what worked, what didn’t work, and how to improve strategic communications going forward.