Speaking With Consistent, Integrated Voices

Integrating what you say throughout your organization has never been more important to your credibility and your reputation.

Messages now spread out over multiple channels, making it essential to speak with a consistent voice.

What you say to Wall Street better match what you tell your employees. Promises you make to a community should be reflected in actions you take in your operations.

Before the Internet, you might have been able to fudge. Not any more. Employees, customers, stakeholders and community members have access to information from a number of sources. They can track down your dissembling. And they can make you pay for it.

Blogs, websites and social media provide convenient platforms to share critical comments. You can be skewered before breakfast.

Savvy organizations realize they need to ensure all their messages, including marketing messages, remain consistent. The best way to accomplish this integration of messaging is to view communications as a strategic undertaking for an organization.

If communications are valued as strategic, they will be considered at top levels of an organization along with operational, financial, legal and human resource issues. Communications strategy will be embedded in all phases of organizational activity. It will be consonant with an organization's overall strategy.

For larger organizations, this means collaboration across functional lines. The person responsible for investor relations works closely with his or her colleagues who handle corporate public relations, community relations, philanthropic giving, employee communications and government relations.

Most organizations are too small to have different people to carry out all those functions. But those functions are still performed in small firms and non-profits, so whoever is responsible – even if it is just the CEO and chief bottle-washer – needs to pay attention to the strategy of communications.

Integration isn't a one-way street. Listening also needs to be integrated. More and more information is traded via interactive media. You must tune in to hear what is being said – about you, your competitors, your business sector – in as many places as you can find.

In an economy based increasingly on ideas, not products and services, what you know is critical. How soon you know it and can apply it are just as critical.

Creating an integrated, early alert communications system that puts you in the know is now a best practice, not an option.

Organizations that stumble along treating communications as an afterthought put their very existence at risk. Those that recognize the world has shifted will place a premium on strategic communications – and listening.