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Communicating with One Voice
by Jim Hartigan
November 8, 2011

Remember the kindergarten game called “telephone” where everyone sits in a circle and a secret is whispered from person to person?  The secret might be something along the lines of “I really like Frank’s shirt today.”  But by the time the secret reaches the last person and is spoken aloud, it has transformed into “I think Frank has really let himself go over the past few years.  Maybe we should stage an intervention.”

Do your team members feel like they are in the middle of a game of telephone with “urgent” messages frantically flying in from all different departments?  Are they trying to judge if the express-mailed envelope is more or less important than the e-mail?  Do the important messages get in the way of the critical ones?

For an organization’s communication efforts to be understood, and therefore effective, there must be a plan in place to ensure that every communication is received as intended.  Don’t let this scare you.  In reality, it can be as simple as asking who, what, where, when, why and how.

Ask these questions:
  • Who will deliver the communication?
  • What is the message?
  • Where do team members receive the most information?
  • When will the communication be sent?
  • Why is this communication necessary?  (Is it necessary at all?)
  • How will the end user receive and use the message?
To give stability and consistency to the message, use just one person to speak for the organization.  Too many people speaking for the organization may send the message of a lack of unity.  If more than one person must be used for communications, limit it to just a few and create a hierarchy.

As far as the message itself goes, it must be unified and defined.  To keep messages consistent, create a style guide, which will help determine what terminology to use and keep everyone on the same page.  If a message contains updated or different information than a previous message, be sure to acknowledge that the previous information has been altered.

Deliver routine, scheduled communications.  Messages should be sent at regular intervals so they are expected.  This predictability will increase the chances that the message will be read.  Only extremely urgent messages should vary from scheduled message times.  Being sent at a different time than usual will emphasize its importance, but only if it is rare and all other messages are sent at a regularly scheduled time.

Determine where your team members have access to receiving information.  Messages must meet team members where they are.

Before sending any message out, ask why you are sending it.  Pausing will help to determine what information is essential and what is not.  If it is not essential, perhaps it should only be communicated to those it concerns in a different manner.

The final question you must ask is how will you send this information?  This is closely related to the question of where.  Where team members get the messages will determine how to send it.  Should it be sent as an e-mail with an attached PDF that the manager can print?  An e-mail with embedded content to be read on screen?  As a fax? Mailed newsletter?  Should you pick up the phone and call?  Determine what works best for your audience and use that method.

By asking these simple questions, you can refine your organization’s communications to be more effective.  Determine a spokesperson for the messages, create unified messages, send the messages out on a regular basis, ask yourself why the message is being sent, and decide by what means team members should receive the message.  If you do, then Frank will always be flattered by compliments and never fear an intervention!

To see what I mean through a selection of communications that the Orgwide team has created Click here and always remember – Take Care of the Customer, Take Care of Each Other, Take Care of Yourself!

About the Author:

Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

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