Communications guides are essential for every organization or business, yet few have one. And if they do have a guide, many are forgotten and filed in a desk drawer. This means new hires frequently have no idea such a guide exists. When a crisis happens, everyone scrambles to locate the now-dusty guide. Bad signal.
To be effective, a communications guide needs to be in a prominent place on a bookshelf, and constantly reviewed both individually and in group meetings. Yes, it’s a cliche to say everyone needs to be on the same page, but if nobody is reading your communications guide, nobody will be on any page. This can spell a communications disaster.
Good communications strategies must be ingrained and reinforced on a daily basis. You have to be able to react fast. Thanks to the Internet, the flow of information is now 24/7. That flow now includes chat forums, bloggers, social media and traditional media.
There are many, many reasons to create a communications guide for your workplace. Here, for the sake of brevity, are three reasons you absolutely need a communications guide:
Reinforcement and repetition of your mission statement and core values. Over the years I have heard many mission statements and core values from senior vice-presidents and executives. They’re were usually included in newsletters or announced at management summits. The lifespan of these statements and values was always brief. Executives rarely repeated them. Many employees barely knew about them in the first place. Don’t make the mistake of having corporate dream words that have the same sticky power as a frying pan covered with Pam. A mission statement, if you are truly serious, is wording in your communications guide that you and staff will return to, time and time again when delivering your message.
Prepared template for dealing with media inquiries. Reporters love it when you are not prepared or caught off guard. When reporters can easily establish control of an interview, you are more likely to make a mistake. A solid template for media inquiries keeps you in control by guiding you through any interview and keeping you focused on your messaging, regardless of questioning. OK, so what if you are rarely interviewed by the media? Let me rephrase it: Are you prepared to risk your company or organization’s reputation because you are not ready for the day when the media does come calling? (As far as I know, the insurance industry does not yet offer Communications Errors insurance premiums, so I’d lean toward being properly prepared.)
Clear goals and organizational structure for handling communications. There’s nothing worse when messaging goes out to the public, and a key executive or manager sees it the next day and screams, “Who authorized this?” It happens all the time. Goals get skewed or missed. The slightest wrong word can create havoc and a bad perception. You must have a flow chart outlining a chain-of-approval for communications. Aside from the approval process, it allows everyone along the chain of command to be involved in consistent and standard messaging. It’s how you greatly reduce communications flops and errors.