More on Strategic Communication

In our last newsletter, we explored the competency of strategic communication. We defined this skill as the ability to employ a subtle understanding of the audience in order to tailor a message in a way that ensures deeper understanding and subsequent action on their part. The text of that newsletter can be found here: http://www.nevinsconsulting.com/newsletter/mail.cgi?f=list&l=nevins

The response to that issue of the newsletter was tremendous. Many readers wrote in to affirm how critical an executive skill strategic communication is. Others submitted their own excellent insights and observations to further the dialogue on, and application of, strategic communication. We would like to share some of the best responses with you, below.

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This was an excellent piece on a very important competency. The only quibble I have is that presenting options at the beginning of a presentation, however briefly, is risky and time-consuming. Instead, I advocate using the approach “of all the options we considered, our recommendation is X.” Doing so sets up a beautiful opportunity for dialogue in the Q&A when an audience member then asks, "Did you consider Y?”

--Bob Lilien, founder of Communispond and Lilien Communications

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I enjoyed this edition of the newsletter immensely, and I would like to add two additional ingredients to successful strategic communications:

1. Know your audience. Know their relationships with each other, their prejudices, and their alliances. An hour with an insider over a beer a few days prior to the presentation is some the best preparation you can do.

2. As a corollary, choose the messenger with care. People hear some messages from some mouths easier than from others. Be sure yours is the right one, and be willing to cede the spotlight to someone else if it’s not.

--Robin Sears, Senior Partner, Navigator Ltd.

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The model presented for “strategic communications” was pragmatic and powerful. I wanted to offer a few other suggestions:

1. If you’re going to list out options, it can be helpful (briefly) to sketch out why they were not the ones chosen; e.g., too expensive, too far outside our core competency, space getting too crowded with competitors, initially appealing but on further analysis not worth the investment, etc.

2. It’s always worth considering adding something about feasibility to any strategic presentation. Costs and profitability are important, but there should also be some discussion around whether or not we can get it done organizationally, whether we have the right people, and what trade-offs will be necessary to achieve success.

3. The proposed strategic communications framework can also be useful earlier in a project, when the analysis is still ongoing and the presenter wants to solicit input and reactions. A status presentation can still be structured around the framework, i.e., “Here is the opportunity, these are the options we’re considering, this is the one that seems to be the emerging favorite, and here is the analysis we have done and still need to do.” In this way, the same framework can catalyze a strategic discussion, gain input and perspective, and suss out likely hot buttons. And then when the audience sees the presentation later, they feel like it reflects their point of view and concerns.

--Libby Halstead, Principal, Halstead Consulting

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These ideas are particularly helpful to me right now, as I am in the middle of a major jury trial, and everything I say should be a form of strategic communication in order to get the result I want for my client. In my own practice, I do all the steps well except the last one: soliciting feedback. And isn’t the feedback from a jury critical? This newsletter was a great reminder of how to manage my staff, my clients, and, of course, the enigmatic creature that is the jury!

--Attorney Kathleen M. Nevins, Nevins & Nevins LLP

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I haven’t always referred to it as such (I will now!), but the ability to communicate strategically is a skill or quality I always look for when conducting senior-level executive searches. The skill is demonstrated by someone who is organized, clear yet succinct, purposeful, and engaging. Those of us who have spent our careers as consultants have had these skills drilled into us, yet increasingly I run into senior-level executives who haven’t developed these abilities.

--Bob Whaley, Managing Partner, Millbrook Partners

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The idea of “communicating strategically” seems to have resonated with many of our readers, and in our own firm we’re talking more about how to better support our clients in developing these skills. If you have other ideas or experiences, please share them with us: info@nevinsconsulting.com