Are You All Talk, No Listen?

We recently did a communications audit for a client. The results were surprising to them. When we undertake a communications audit, depending on the objective, we usually review everything being done that focuses on communication – e-newsletters, staff memos, meetings, town halls, intranet, external website, news releases, media pitches and, of course, social media interaction.

This particular client wanted to know what they were doing well and what they could do better. Social media was something that had just kind of happened at their company – with great intentions. Staff had taken it upon themselves and started a Facebook page and Twitter account and the CEO had taken to Foursquare. To their credit, they updated quite regularly. The challenge was that the communication coming from this company was all push out – and this wasn’t just through social media channels. The tone and style of communication was outdated throughout the organization because it was a top-down, “we want you to know this” style. Facebook and Twitter were used to send out information about what the CEO was doing – board meetings, business events, etc. and on Foursquare, we could learn at any given time where the CEO was having coffee, drinks or dinner. And there was no interactivity. It was all about what they wanted you to know.

There were solid intentions from the people of this organization; it’s just that the execution fell short because their approach wasn’t based on any kind of strategy. (Do most people care where company’s CEO gets his/her coffee or have dinner?)

If you want to improve your organization’s outreach on social media or through any communications vehicle, it’s important to identify how people want to get the information (e-newsletter, blog, website update, Facebook, etc.) and this means doing your research. Don’t make assumptions. It is crucial to define what your audience or stakeholders are interested in hearing; don’t assume you know what they need to hear. And, last but not least, don’t make it all about you. It’s about them and the value you can bring to them. Create opportunities to interact. Ask questions. Ask for feedback and comments.

While you are developing a communications strategy, take a moment and think about that time you were at a party and the most boring person in the room cornered you and talked about themselves for half an hour. Do you want people to feel that way about your organization? (The fact is, if you are boring them, they don’t have to be polite and stick around for half an hour. They have a delete button.)

Have you taken a realistic look lately at how you reach out – what did you find?

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