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Thursday, July 01, 2010

7 Rules for Keeping your Business Communication Transparent and Authentic


Concurrent with the globalization of social media, and perhaps concurrent with the growth of the Web itself, are new demands for transparency and authenticity in business communication. Recent examples highlight how this change in thought and expectation are expressing themselves in a wireless world. British Petroleum (BP) has suffered over the accident on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform that caused 11 deaths and a massive oil spill along the USA's Gulf coast. Toronto police took criticism from all fronts about their actions during Toronto's hosting of the G20 summit. These are just two public relations nightmares that have occurred because these organizations'  business communication did not convince the public that they were being transparent and authentic.

In the face of citizen journalism, rabidly competitive mainstream media, public watchdog groups, whistleblowers, every business and organization MUST be seen to be acting transparently and in accordance with the values they purport to hold. Consider, too, a better informed public who have multiple sources of information from Youtube to Twitter for getting up to the minute and unique perspectives on current events. The cognitive dissonance between what a company says and what it does disturbs customers, clients, partners, suppliers, and the public. It disturbs them to the point of costing you credibility and even revenue. 

No business can afford to make major miss-steps in this area. And if you DO make a mistake, act quickly to correct the false impression, even if you have to admit your mistake publicly. Far better, in the view of those who are watching -- and believe it, everyone is watching -- to take heat for telling the truth about a problem in the first place. At least then you'll be seen as honest, if wrong-headed at times. Mistakes can be recovered from; deceiving the public and losing credibility may be something that your organization can never live down.

7 New Rules for Business Communication

These 7 rules will help you make your communications more believable and effective.


1. Never forget you are on the world stage.

Tweets and Youtube videos posted to the Web are seen around the world in minutes. Whatever your organization does can be viewed and commented upon almost instantly. And it will be. Guaranteed. If anyone has an axe to grind with your company or organization, or is just vigilant about watching what you're doing, they will be alert for any opportunity to broadly publicize their opinion about it. Not only must you do the right thing, your organization must be seen to do the right thing. Don't do or say anything that you wouldn't want to see posted online before the day is over.

2. Ensure someone in your organization is responsible and accountable for all your communications.

This means much more than having a PR person designated to write press releases, arrange press conferences, and keep track of social media. It means having a communication expert -- one who understands the intricacies and dynamics of public communication and social media, and who has the skill to communicate the nuances of a situation effectively and quickly to those who are watching. Pay that person well and make them fully accountable for your company's persona no matter where it shows up. This is an active role, not a passive one. In addition to handling problems that occur, your Chief Content Officer needs to be able to go toe-to-toe with the CEO, President, Owner, Commander, or Board of Directors when necessary to ensure the authenticity of messages being communicated, and that everything is visible.

3. Remember who you are.

Your company, group, or organization has a persona just as real and valid as that of any individual. It is a composite of your values, your mission, your core competencies, and your people. It is clothed in your technology and animated by your communications. Whenever you deviate from the image others have of your company, or when that persona appears to act contrary to what others expect, you risk losing your audience and consequently your customers. Everything your organization does must be consistent with its persona, even if it is sometimes painful to achieve that.

4. Let individuals do the talking.

Even more important than your organization's persona are the individual voices that are telling your corporate story. Who are the individuals speaking for your company? They should be people who best represent the organization, and are the most knowledgeable about your products and services. Remember that it is much easier to connect with people individually than with a group.

5. Build trust and rapport with dialogue.

The old saying that it takes a long time to gain trust but only a moment to lose it is never more true than on the Web. Trust is built from consistency between words and actions. Trust comes from being genuine and honest. If your company or organization resonates with someone, initial trust follows quickly and continues to deepen as long as you remain consistent with your messages. As you communicate your principles, your intentions, your actions, and your successes, you will gain the trust of those who can contribute to your company as customers or partners. Trust comes from the beginning of rapport -- finding the common ground you share with your audience, and then inviting them to see what else you have to offer. Next, check back with them to find out what they thought of that experience. Building trust and rapport requires listening to your market, and responding to them when they communicate with you. Good two-way communication solidifies relationships.

6. Connect, engage, and inform.

Connecting with others is easy, there are hundreds of technical tools that facilitate connections worldwide. Engaging, however, means catching someone's interest and offering them something of value so that they stay engaged. Information that solves a problem, answers a question, or helps someone perform a task is the most valuable kind of information you can provide. The more you inform your followers, the more loyalty you will enjoy. Engaging people with your business makes them start to care, and you want them to care enough that they tell you first if anything starts to go wrong.

7. Stay meaningful.

What you say, and how you say it, has to be meaningful for your audience. No one has time anymore for the irrelevant, so stick to the core messages. Meaningful communications with your market and others who pay attention to what you do will reap rewards in continued connection and rapport, as well as more business.

The final thing to remember is that everyone is an observer and everyone is connected 24/7 thanks to the worldwide Web. Time and space mean nothing, and even language is no longer a barrier. To do business in such a climate, you absolutely must overhaul your communications so that they work in a connected world. Adaptation is the key trait for survival of the fittest in the 21st century.


Posted via email from writingwiz's posterous


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