Updated: Oct 17
Communicating with any group of people, large or small, can backfire in unanticipated and unexpected ways. If unnecessarily lengthy, disorganized, or error-filled, expect the message to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. In most cases, low content absorption rates stem from distributing too much information too fast; when in doubt, less is often more. What follows describes a method we use for achieving those specific goals.
By focusing on the following 7-step method for information dissemination, entitled “The Strategic Communications Process,” it is possible to communicate relevant information to achieve a business objective effectively:
The first step is an initial communication at the project’s inception to inform stakeholders about the 5 W’s (who, what, why, where, when), highlight where they may obtain further details, and provide contact information for the project team.
Who are the right stakeholders? You can conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify the target audience. You can perform this step by locking yourself into a room with the client-side Project Sponsor and Project Lead to determine which folks need to know.
What is the right message? Drafting the communication, vetting verbiage with the technical team, and implementing an iterative review process with “pilot” recipients will ensure the message is relevant and comprehensive yet concise.
Who should send the communication? Concentrating on stakeholder buy-in while asking this question is essential. The sender must exist as a trusted source of information for the target audience. The message may need to come from an Endorser, or Program Manager, to ensure the recipients understand the importance of the communication.
What is the best medium? The message may be an e-mail, Intranet “Community of Practice” site post, individual phone call, text, flyer, or myriad other options. You may need to send this message using a combination of media. In general, a wide array of avenues will reach a larger audience.
When should the message be sent? Building a communication plan and timeline at the beginning of the project will help ensure communications are prepared, reviewed, and sent at appropriate times. Communications sent too early may be forgotten; sent too late may cause unnecessary stress or time constraints. Additionally, only a few communications may be practical, whereas too many may become overwhelming. Utilize your experience and leverage conversations with current stakeholders to determine the correct Goldilocks zone.
What are we hoping to achieve? Clarifying intent will help ensure the message achieves its goal. For example, you may inform the audience of a change. There may be specific action items or follow-on requests. Understanding the overarching theme will allow you to craft the message in a way that will serve its purpose.
How is the message helping promote business objectives? This question can be the most ambiguous. Leverage the project’s business case or use case, often found in the framing document, to identify and outline high-level benefits of the project. This process will help craft communications that create an understanding of how audience participation can positively affect and impact business objectives.
In conclusion, we delivered communications successfully across the project lifecycle, which met our specific goals. George Bernard Shaw said, “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” By using the 7-step Strategic Communications Process, the opportunity for effective delivery of information becomes a reality.