Complexity Conquered

Communicating purposefully (for a change)

Posted by Matt Baxter on Dec 7, 2018 1:30:00 PM
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Whether you’re trying to deliver a major project, improve asset sustainability or renegotiate a critical contract, if you want to achieve your objectives you need to motivate the right human action. The best way to do that? By communicating with purpose.

On the battlefield and in the boardroom, communication is the most effective tool leaders have to influence the thoughts, feelings and actions of the people they lead and serve. But too often, in both public and private organisations, communication efforts fail to deliver real outcomes.

In our experience, one of the main reasons for this is the often-unconscious attitude that communication is an end in itself. This belief is driven by the inherent difficulty of linking communication activities to business results, which encourages an “outputs” rather than “outcomes” approach to communication. When this happens inside an organisation, the communication function may be busy and well-resourced. But take a closer look and you’ll find that while a lot’s happening, very little of it is actually helping you achieve your goals.

One of the major challenges our clients face in delivering strategic outcomes is aligning and motivating the combined efforts of a diverse range of stakeholders. When they deliberately consider outcomes, and carefully choose channels and tactics to suit their audiences, they see great results. When they don’t, the core purpose of communication—to enable strategic outcomes by motivating human action—is rarely achieved.

Purposeful communication provides a structured approach to achieving the often-elusive goal of motivating human action. We’ve helped many of our clients get better project, contract and asset outcomes using this approach, and we’ve learned that success depends on commitment to four fundamental principles: ensuring communication is anchored in outcomes, deeply researched, targeted and tailored, and intentionally executed.

The principles of purposeful communication

By keeping these four principles in mind, you can go beyond outputs (and say goodbye to boring newsletters, pointless presentations and misaligned messages) and start delivering real outcomes through your communication.

Principle One: Anchored in outcomes

Purposeful communication never occurs in isolation or “just for the sake of it”. It always serves a greater purpose, with every activity directly linked to motivating specific human action that will help achieve strategic outcomes.

What you can do: Take the time to consider the minimum viable level of support that will be required to achieve your strategic objectives, then set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) communication objectives directly linked to motivating that support.

Principle two: Deeply researched

Achieving outcomes with purposeful communication requires a deep understanding of your stakeholders’ interests, wants, drivers and constraints, as well as your past, present and future operating context—so thorough research and analysis are non-negotiable.

What you can do: Use qualitative and quantitative research techniques to gather and analyse information to identify your key stakeholders and their interests, drivers, constraints and preferences, as well as the potential impacts of your operating environment.

Principle three: Targeted and tailored

Purposeful communication is about encouraging specific action from a diverse range of stakeholders—so a one-size-fits-all approach never works. Instead, channels, tactics, timing and messages are carefully chosen for each stakeholder group.

What you can do: Based on your objectives and research, develop tailored messages for your stakeholder groups and determine the most effective mix of channels, tactics, products and messengers to encourage the human action necessary to achieve your outcomes.

Principle four: Intentionally executed

To ensure it’s directly enabling outcomes, purposeful communication is deliberately delivered and continually measured, while evolving in response to changes in your environment and broader strategic objectives.

What you can do: Look beyond outputs and set clear measures to confirm communication activity is delivering value and directly enabling outcomes. Continually sense and respond to changes in the environment—updating your approach to align with your evolving objectives.

Ready to communicate purposefully?

If you’re implementing a strategy, delivering a project, or embarking on a major transformation, we can help you achieve your outcomes with purposeful communication. Together, we can support you to develop a detailed strategic communication plan that’s purposeful and fully integrated with your objectives, deliver the tactics to bring your plan to life, and boost the communication capability of your leaders.

If you’d like to find out more about how Helmsman can help you achieve outcomes with purposeful communication, please contact Sarah Nelson-Jonas, Practice Lead – Strategy | Design | Mobilisation.

Topics: change, Communication, Strategic Communication