When it comes to employees, customers and members, mum is not the word. Why you should get strategic with your internal and external messages.
Communication is at the heart of building business relationships: top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, peer-to-peer, internally and externally. The best relationships are two-way with active dialogue. You can have a solid plan and vision, employees with phenomenal capacity and business integrity – but not communicating to your employees, customers and members can be toxic.
An open dialogue has always been critical, but even more so when times are tough. During a recession, there’s no such thing as over-communication. Granted, we’re a company of communicators (designers, writers, marketers and editors) – so of course we’re cheerleaders for the spoken and written word. Consider this: Trust leads to loyalty and a willingness to be open to new ideas, collaborations, strategies and opportunities. How do people learn to trust you? By evaluating what you say and do and what you avoid saying and doing.
Maybe profits are down, things are behind schedule, some staffers were let go or there’s a product glitch. In these instances and others, how is getting the truth in front of your audience, whoever they may be, going to hurt your business? People can digest more than you give them credit for. An explanation, whether it’s an email, phone call, meeting or newsletter will not only lend you credibility, it will stop the spread of fear and speculation.
Let’s zero in on the importance of chatting up…
Employees. Leaders shouldn’t assume that employees understand the impact of the recession on your business. Don’t be afraid to have candid conversations and ask for their help and ideas. If layoffs are necessary, internal silence will cripple institutional trust. Showing the employees still with the company that you care and are invested in them will make them remain invested in you. Assure your people that they count on your trust and respect.
Members. Associations and membership organizations are definitely strapped these days. If you feel like your members are scrutinizing your worth, they probably are. Membership dues are quick costs to cut. If your numbers are down, don’t go radio silent. Tell them what they’ll be missing and think of opportunities to attract new members. If you’re not offering a robust network, then improve it and educate new and old members on your new offerings.
Customers. Arguably, communications is as important as service and results when it comes to maintaining costumer relationships. In fact, it could be the difference between keeping and losing clients during an economic downturn. Keeping a dialogue going strengthens loyalty, which increases the likelihood of retention, and even new business to meet their new needs. Many companies shy away from conversations with customers, while more forward-thinkers embrace the opportunity to engage with them. Comcast, for example, talks about customer service issues and answers questions on Twitter. By allowing customers to be heard, they’re increasing loyalty.
Communication is the glue that holds together partnerships, teams, productivity and managing relationships. Without it, you’ll likely lose the people you need to keep your business thriving.