Letting the facts speak for themselves is an expression we’ve all heard, but the way facts are presented speaks volumes also. Every exchange of information comes with an act of persuasion. It might be benign or subliminal, but our experiences mold our interpretations, and those direct the way we export our thoughts.
Understanding this is a component of strategic communication, as addressed within Rand Corporation’s researcher Christopher Paul in testimony this month before the House Armed Services subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
While this isn’t a newsletter on achieving better international diplomacy, the testimony transcript on Rand’s website was insightful. It calls out tensions between broadcast communication and engagement, as well as the fact that it is impossible to inform without influencing people at the same time.
In our reality as strategic planners, we see some companies go through time and money in building a strategic plan, yet dedicate no resources to the long-term communication of that plan. Broadcasting the plan is easy, engaging people into executing it is not. The reality is that many organizations do not have an organic foundation for engagement already set up.
Another common challenge arises when the leadership team unveils a strategic plan, but does not embrace it with visible action. When employees see this from the top, they are being influenced to believe that the plan is not important, or even worse, that it is flawed. Paul identifies this as the “say-do” gap. Unfortunately, we have seen these types of gaps swallow the efforts of strategic plans.
Our take away is that actions matter. Working to engage people requires tiers of communication objectives that sync up with your organizational structure: An enterprise-wide strategic objective is usually not tangible enough for front line executors. Our belief is that communication objectives need to cascade down the organization much like strategic objectives and goals do.
We know what you are thinking—That’s a whole lot of alignment and effort. Yes, it is and this is what it will demand:
- It will take the good choices and clear direction of leadership;
- It will demand a clear definition of your overall strategy;
- It will take coordination of information and activity;
- And yes, most importantly, it will need to be resourced.
Where are the gaps in your strategic communication?