A to Z of corporate communication

by Michelle Walkden (Mich-communication)
Download as PDF I'd like to be able to say these 26 points are all you need to know about corporate communications, but that would not only be a bit arrogant, but plain wrong. It is a good start though.

Links in the list below go to previous Mich-communication posts.


Buzzwords should just buzz off.

Audience – if you audience doesn't understand your message then you have failed to communicate. Always ask yourself what they need to know and expect to hear. Then blend that into what you want to tell them.

Buzzwords – there is almost, always a simpler, shorter, easier word. Use it. And in the process you will stand out among everyone who is "implementing and facilitating cutting-edge technology to leverage future-proof solutions".

Consistency – there isn't a hard and fast rule for everything; make a choice and stick with it in all your communication.

Details – the little stuff does matter. Misspelling someone's name, mistyping a phone number or failing to check your math leave the audience wondering what else have you gotten wrong.

Embrace – I originally used engagement as my E entry, but in typing it out realised that embrace was a better option. While I personally hate the word engagement – it's on my list of expressions that must die this year – I have to concede I'm in the minority. The lesson is to know which battles matter and if not embrace those points you can't change, at least accept them.

First three words – your first three words are the most important. They're often all that people read; whether a headline, caption, link text or intro. If those first three words don't grab attention you won't get another chance.

God – a little obscure, but bear with me. Culture plays a big part in how we understand and absorb information. It's also a minefield for unintended insults. Research your audience to know what is and is not acceptable. If in doubt err on the side of caution.

Everyone has a bad day; everyone makes mistakes. Keeping communication on a human rather than superhuman level strikes a chord.

Human – communication is a two-way street, at least it should be. To spark discussion whether online or in person, be human, not superhuman. Letting some personality shine through, and – heaven help us – owning up to mistakes and uncertainty, can go a long way to building trust. And you can always turn it into a team building or knowledge sharing exercise.

Inverted pyramid – the backbone of all corporate communication, whether written, spoken or filmed. Get your message and main points across first, then follow up with the supporting background and details for credibility.

Jargon – yes I'm being a bit lazy here. Like buzzwords, jargon – those words particular to a group of people, industry or skill set – has no place in general communication.

KISS – keep it simple, but not stupid. Don't fall into the trap of stripping back your communication so far the message becomes vague or the language facile and insulting to a knowledgeable audience.

Learn – it's obvious but worth pointing out anyway: learn from your mistakes.

Message – the whole point of your communication. Make sure you know what you really want to say before you start saying it.

Natural – don't try to sound like someone else. A natural tone, whether giving a speech, writing a blog or running a meeting is the way to go. People quickly see through any kind of artifice and are left wondering what you are trying to hide.

Overkill – sacrilegious as this statement is, there can be too much communication. Or rather, too much harping on the same subject. Good communicators know when enough is enough and move on before the audience turns off all together and misses the rest of your message platform.

Purpose – you've determined you message, researched your audience, but what are you hoping to achieve? If you don't know the outcome you are aiming for your message won't have much impact.

Quotes in press releases and other corporate content should reflect actual speech.

Quotes – these are (technically) statements from real people, make them sound like they could actually be spoken by a living, breathing being, rather than cut and paste from a strategy statement.

Reliable – always deliver. If you promise a media comment, make one. If you advertise a webinar, broadcast it. If you always create cascade packs, don't stop without explanation. If you claim to be available on weekend, keep the phone on.

Storytelling – messages are best remembered when they are associated with emotions. (I wish I came up with that statement but it turned up in a LinkedIn discussion, so I can't claim credit). A real life example not only puts a message into context but helps the audience see how it applies to them.

Transparency – a company that only has good news is a company that is lying. While social media is forcing a much more modest public face these days, we have a long way to go internally. Discussing the bad, not just the good, will go a long way to restoring credibility and therefore make the positive news more believable too.

United – once you have a message everyone has to stick to it, support it and promote it. Everyone. And until you have an established, agreed upon message, everyone needs to keep quiet. A united front prevents confusion and eliminates the rumours and innuendo that undermine morale, trust and credibility.

You need to earn a stamp of approval from your audience. Simply telling them how good you are won't work.

Value statements – no one wants to be told how to think. Give your audience real facts and let them make up their own mind if you are the fastest, smartest, best.

Walk the talk – comms professionals can't afford to slip or take shortcuts when it comes to language, style, brand identity, tone of voice, template adherence or image guidelines. If you flout the rules you can't very well criticise others for doing so. And if you insist company bloggers post twice a week you better too – no matter how busy you are.

Xerox - let me start by saying I'm pretty chuffed I used a real word starting with X and didn't go for eXciting or the like. Ok it's a brand name, but ... My point here is don't just copy your content when using it in multiple channels. Make sure to adapt to the audience and the format.

Yes men – have no place in corporate comms. Part of the job is challenging the sender of the message to make sure it is relevant, timely and well delivered.

Zed or zee – while the choice of –ize or –ise is not strictly that of American or British English, let's stick with the stereotype. Choose which version your company will use, stick to it yourself and enforce it wherever you can. First posted on Michelle Walkden's blog on May 20, 2012.

Published here by kind permission of the author.


About Mich-communication
Whether it's a commentary on how communication is impacting or is being impacted by the world, suggestions on how to improve content, issues to avoid or an out and out rant, Mich-communication is here to challenge bad habits and encourage more relevant communication.
But why listen to me? Well there isn't a really good reason except that I am curious about everything to do with how we use words and images to interact with each other. If you are reading this, I assume you are to.
I've been communicating all my life, as have we all, but started making a living out of it when I was accepted for a journalism cadetship (apprenticeship at a newspaper) when I was 17. With the exception of a few years wandering the globe with my life in a backpack, and the occasional stint in restaurants or behind a bar waiting for communications work to come my way, I've been a writing, talking, teaching and preaching communication professionally ever since.
From 14 years in newspapers in Australia, covering everything from the local flower show and Christmas Day babies born in the back for cars, to triple murders and political corruption, I switched to corporate communication, first as a consultant then as an employee.

More at: http://michcommunication.wordpress.com

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