• All about the humanity of communication.

    All about the humanity of communication.

A thoughtful, thorough plan draws a clear map toward a shared destination

A Communication Plan defines a process for communication among all employees at all levels. It is a strategic method of getting everyone involved in the company, its growth and evolution, and ultimately its continued success.

sedona-rocksA Communication Plan is based on strategic goals, aligned and focused, and results in increased revenue and profitability, more robust innovation, and marked organizational stability. It unites everyone—directors, executives, managers, and employees—in your company toward this strategic goal with a shared purpose.

Specifically, a Communication Plan identifies:

  • The types of communication that most benefit your organization.
  • The people involved in sending, receiving, and contributing to this communication.
  • The best channels—written, audio, video, electronic, verbal, interactive, and others—for creating and transmitting this communication, and an action plan for implementing these channels. These channels allow for clear communication up and down the corporate organization chart (from directors and executives, to managers and employees, and back) and among all divisions, groups, and colleagues.
  • A time table for how often information is communicated. Regular communication is one of the many keys to success.

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Communicating effectively creates a myriad of benefits, especially increased shareholder return and higher market valuation

Effective communication performs a core corporate role, vital to your company’s financial capacity as well as to your overall success.

boundary-treeThis success encompasses many measurable factors:

  • Increased market valuation.
  • Increased shareholder value.
  • Greater connection and commitment from employees.
  • A more robust and inclusive corporate culture.
  • Proactive involvement that drives corporate change and growth.

In essence, effective communication drives business results that lead to success.

Increased market valuation. Effective communication is one of the leading indicators for financial performance. Research shows that, over the first years of this century, companies with the most effective communication attained a 30 percent increase in market valuation. This is almost 20 percent higher than companies that do not communicate effectively.

This holds true for both publicly-traded as well as privately-held companies.

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After spending an inordinate amount of time meeting three deadlines last week, I decided to cruise a bit the next morning and spend some time surfing through the social media sites in which I participate.

I started with Twitter. In the first hour, I received 206 tweets, or one every 18 seconds. I also received almost 150 updates from my LinkedIn connections, about 120 posts by my Facebook “friends,” plus drowning-in-social-mediathe activity from connections on STC’s social network, MySTC. This is on top of 34 email messages. And this doesn’t even count the discussions posted on the several LinkedIn groups to which I belong.

I tried reading them all, but I was simply overwhelmed by the volume. I realized that I could spend the entire day reading, responding, and participating.

I talked to a colleague about this. I smiled at his response. “I spent about an hour the other day reading through my Twitter stream. Lots of interesting stuff, but nothing earth shattering. I could easily waste my entire day on this and not get anything done.” As in “not get anything important done.” Now that’s drowning in social media.

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The promise of cloud computing, especially as it relates to social media, is considerable

While cloud computing is a metaphor for the Internet, its breadth and range are much more significant and ground-breaking. Cloud computing is a complex infrastructure of software, hardware, processing, and storage that is available as a service. Cloud computing offers immediate access to large numbers of view-of-molokaithe world’s most sophisticated supercomputers and their corresponding processing power, interconnected at various locations around the world, proffering speed in the tens of trillions computations per second.

All of this is available through a simple Internet connection using a standard browser. Services range from the sublime—financial analysis, medical information and diagnoses, and document creation and collaboration—to the whimsical—computer gaming. Cloud computing is comprised essentially of applications running remotely (in the clouds, so to speak) that typically reside on personal computers and local servers.

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Multidimensional interactions have altered the basic rules of communication

Social media has drastically changed how we communicate. Not too long ago, we communicated through the mail, on a land-line telephone, and in person. Today, we send text messages; leave voice messages; use instant messenger; send emails; talk through headphones, cell phones, and online video alitas-autumn-treephones; and, of course, interact through the Internet where a plethora of social media tools has redefined communication.

Such a redefinition has had an enormous effect. The entire paradigm of social media has altered the basic rules of communication, especially between business and their audiences. The one-way communication methods of the recent past—business-to-customer and business-to-business—have been replaced by a more robust multidimensional communication model. That model is collectively called social media (also referred to as Web 2.0).

The rules of social media. To communicate effectively in the social media world means understanding the new rules of the road.

People want:

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Your use of social media channels must be strategic, advancing your company’s goals and enhancing your profitability

Social media has forever altered the way we communicate. Blogs, tweets, wikis, social networks, professional networks, online news wires, RSS technology, podcasts, videocasts, and other social media tools necessitate a revised communication strategy.

antique-gas-pumpsYou can employ these social media tools for a myriad of reasons:

  • Communicating with employees and empowering their collaboration.
  • Engaging your customers and prospects to attain the results you desire.
  • Building your reputation and brand, and shaping your perception in the marketplace.
  • Influencing behavior, increasing awareness, and growing a community of supporters.

Social media is fragmented and personal, and yet is a more effective means of communicating. Information is garnered from many different sources; you are no longer in control of all the messages.

Understand the five C’s of social media. All social media share a common set of characteristics, the five C’s: conversation, contribution, collaboration, connection, and community. Through social media, people state and discuss their thoughts and opinions, their experiences and expectations, and their perspectives about your company, your employees, your products, and your services. How you engage in this dialogue fuels your social media community, toward ill will and goodwill.

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Whenever I present on social media, I am invariably asked, “Where do I find the time to regularly participate?” It’s a good question. To paraphrase Steven Covey, “I make the time.”

Still, I found keeping up with social media to be difficult at first. Over time, I’ve developed a process that works for me (most days, at least). Before I get into details, let’s back up a bit to consider the larger perspective.

making-time-for-social-mediaFirst, let’s talk rationale. Why engage at all? Two big reasons. One: social media is one of the primary uses of the Internet; it has exploded over the past few years. And two: your engagement can enrich your professional career.

Second, let’s talk strategy and answer a most relevant question in communication: Where are you going? Define the overriding goal for your social media presence, then make sure that everything conforms to this goal. For example, because I am an independent communication consultant, my goal is to be perceived as an enlightened, knowledgeable expert. I know this is a lofty goal, but it certainly gives me something to continually pursue. In that respect, George Bernard Shaw has motivated me when he wrote, “I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind.”

Now that the foundation is set, let’s talk process. I spend at most 20 minutes each morning on social media. It’s time that I can more easily fit into my schedule if I do it first.

When I open my browser, I double-click a folder I created that bookmarks my pages on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and my Toward Humanity blog. This causes each bookmark to open in its own tab. You can set up your folder anyway you want (for instance, Europeans might want their Xing page to open). I could have set my browser to open these pages on start up, but I only want to open them once, and creating the folder enables me to control when they open. Once open, I spend some time on each one.

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When I first suggested staying competitive with social media to the project manager, he just looked at me blankly. “What would be the purpose?” he said. “Wouldn’t it just be another level of overhead?”

Valid questions, I thought. So I explained.

staying-competitive-with-social-mediaProject Management. A LinkedIn group would allow everyone to exchange information and to discuss issues openly. We could all see who else was involved in the project, and we could review everyone’s background. That would allow us not only to appreciate each other more, but also to call on the most appropriate person for a particular topic. We wouldn’t have to know each other’s email addresses; we could just communicate through LinkedIn. And everything discussed on the project would reside in one place where we all could review it and access it from wherever.

The group would be members only. People would have to request to join, and I would pass any names not associated with the project to the project manager before I allowed them to join. Ultimately, it would give us all a sense of purpose, ownership, and camaraderie.

I could see that the project manager was ruminating on that a bit, so I waited. What he said next brought a smile to my face.

“If we are going to use LinkedIn to better manage the project, what about using another social media tool for topics that demand more immediacy, like Twitter.”

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On a recent camping trip, my pal Bill called out to me with some urgency. “Hey Rich! Come take a look at this!”

He was pointing to something floating in a nearby stream, swollen from the spring melt. However, by the time I made my way to the stream, whatever it was had floated on by, out of sight.

“Oh, you missed it,” Bill said. “It was really cool.”

your-flowing-twitter-streamWe stood there for a brief moment, a mild look of chagrin crossed his face. “Well, tell me about it then,” I said. And he tried, but just couldn’t describe it in a way that did this mysterious object any justice.

“You just had to see it,” he concluded.

“Well, I suppose I could jog down the stream bank and catch up to it,” I said helpfully.

He gave me a wry smile. “It was cool,” he replied. “But it wasn’t that cool.”

And so it is with your Twitter stream. Tweets flow down your Twitter stream continuously, and many of them are cool. But unless you are there, on the bank so to speak, they just flow by unnoticed and unappreciated. Yes, you could “run down” your Twitter stream’s bank to peruse all those past tweets, but are they really worth it? Most likely, no.

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I just wanted a good place to eat breakfast.

That was my early morning goal at McCarran International Airport last month. A handy kiosk listed the restaurants (and shops) in that particular wing of the airport. Some of the restaurant names were familiar, national chains, while many others were new to me. A short, informational description followed each name.

your-linkedin-recommendationsAs I scanned the list, one entry caught my eye. The words “fresh Italian” were part of the description. I had been at this restaurant in the past. I had seen their food stretched along a steam table. And there was nothing fresh about it. A wry smile crossed my face. Informational? Hardly. Marketing? Definitely.

So I approached the two agents at my departure gate. “Can you tell me a good place to eat breakfast?” I asked. The two women discussed it a bit between themselves, then looked to me and said, “Try Sammy’s.”

You already know where I’m going with this. Few believe you when you tell them that you are the most dedicated, competent, professional technical communicator on the planet. Many more, however, believe it when someone else says it. That is the power of recommendations.

In my last column, I discussed the many reasons for increasing your LinkedIn connections. This time, I’m going to give you some guidelines for getting those connections to recommend you.

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