Communications training for leaders – a key investment

The leaders in your business are likely directors, managers, or board members. These people connect the team with customers, gather donations, and are your best brand ambassadors.

These key people within an organization are often overlooked when it comes to communications training. Why? There are likely more reasons than you or I care to count. But one of the big reasons is that management often say they can’t afford to have them away from their teams or off the floor. To some, it is lost productivity.

My argument is you can’t afford not to train them. In the age of instant news and viral social media whatever is said internally or externally can make its way into the public.

Leaders need to know how to effectively speak to employees as they will motivate them day in and day out, which impacts business results.  The “rank and file” need to know what leaders stand for.

Leaders need to know what information is appropriate to share externally. For example, it’s not a good idea for them to speak about a major acquisition before the deal is closed…. or discuss financial information before it is released publicly.  Without knowing how to manage and deliver information leaders can become more of a liability than an asset.

Look around the organization. There may already be internal resources or people with experience that can help train leaders.  Before taking that road, identify the type of training needed and what the key take-aways are for trainees. Work out the curriculum. Conduct a trial run with a small group of leaders and gather feedback after the sessions to make improvements for the next round.

If the resources aren’t there internally, look to professional organizations in your community as they can point you in the right direction.

Training leaders is worth it. Remember, it takes years to build your reputation but only seconds to destroy it.

Employees can and will sing your praises….if you do it right.

Employees and volunteers are your best ambassadors. They are on the ground meeting and talking with key suppliers or donors.  But quite often these people are overlooked when it comes to accomplishing your strategic goals. It’s time you change that way of thinking and get your employees and volunteers more involved in your business. It’s all about engagement. It’s a fuzzy word that many people struggle to understand. Research shows employees or volunteers who are engaged in what they do also find more meaning or purpose and are more productive. That results in increased performance and business results. Hardly the Cadbury secret when you look at it, but engagement IS a critical ingredient many businesses overlook. So, how do you engage your brand ambassadors and protect your organization’s reputation?

  • Train them
    • Offer things like customer service training or media training. Do this even if they aren’t the official spokesperson or the one to answer the phone, you want them to know how to react and mange themselves – or the messages they say – effectively.
    • Share key information
      • Provide key messages and questions and answers. Give them information that is “safe” to share and can help build your brand or encourage more people to get involved or donate.
      • Provide them with materials like information kits and promotional items. These things go a long way to help navigate conversations and generate interest.
      • Keep them involved
        • Provide updates on the priorities for the year, business results, numbers of volunteers, and identify your needs.
        • Ask for their opinions. They will have fresh ideas that can help a region or specific area of your business thrive.
        • Ensure communication is two-way and not top down.
          • People will feel like they are being heard. Hold conference calls where you take questions or have an email box that questions or suggestions can be submitted. Just be sure to respond in a timely manner.

Start with these basics and you’ll see a definite change in how your people connect with you and the general public.

Reaching your target audience

There have been recent media reports that say mainstream media is still your best bet at influencing public opinion.  Whether you believe it or not is up to you but there is one thing you shouldn’t ignore if you have a message to deliver – you need to have an outreach campaign that connects with your target audience regardless of the medium you chose.

Where do you start? Well, that depends on what you’re doing and the message you want to convey. Basically, you need to start with the fundamentals of good communications planning.

  • Identify the objective of your message – ask yourself what behaviour or attitude changes do you want to see and write your message to support that approach.
  • Identify key, strategic considerations like the economy, public opinion polls, or business performance. What you identify here must be relevant to your focus.
  • Craft your key messages and adjust when you have your audience identified.
  • Create a list of people who will carry your message and then plan to train them.
  • Identify a few media options (like tv, radio, or social media) you would want to consider.

How do you know who your target audience is? Well, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are they? This would include cultural and economical demographics
  • What do they do?
  • What do you know about them already?
  • What do they think and feel about a particular issue?
  • What motivates them? What causes them to be passive?

Knowing these things will help you identify barriers and opportunities to connect with the audience.

You can get this information by conducting research, analyzing media reports, and being familiar with your industry’s trends and practices.

After you identify your target audience, you can finalize the messaging and the method you want to use. It could be mainstream media or social media. Remember, knowing your audience is key. If you don’t know this critical information, you could be wasting valuable time and money.