Communication in the New Normal

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Information about Communication in the New Normal
Business & Mgmt

Published on February 18, 2014

Author: JanWithofs



Noël Slangen and Jan Withofs defined10 critical succes factors to transform your company's communication to a strategic proactive approach that takes into account responsibility, employee engagement, stakeholders and social media.

“The question is, “What will normal look like?” While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years. The New Normal will be shaped by a confluence of powerful forces - some arising directly from the financial crisis and some that were at work long before it began.” Ian Davis in the McKinsey Quarterly groepc 1

1. Having focus “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Jack Welch groepc 2

The principles  Management is not so difficult, according to Matthew Stewart in his book ‘The management myth’: You need to have a clear focus, aim high enough and then you do everything you can to achieve your goal.  In the New Normal we need to abandon woolly missions and come up with a vision that is sharp and provides direction for the whole company. groepc 3

 It is important to take a look at your company from the outside. Are the priorities clear? Are you perceived as a market leader in a segment? Is your message Reversible, Distinctive and Relevant?  Every company should sell and spread a dream. groepc 4

Action to be taken Create a ‘red dot’, a unique point on the horizon for the whole company. groepc 5

2. Making choices “Search engines that I won’t mention by their name, tried to do so many things that they completely forgot about searching. They created a gap and Google stepped into it.” Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google groepc 6

The principles  You can’t do everything at the same time. Create a culture, where you can say ‘no’ to anything that is out of focus.  According research carried out by Berenschot among top Dutch managers, making choices is most difficult in times of crisis. 41% of the respondents stated that they do not make choices in times of crisis, 34% stick to familiar strategies. groepc 7

 Not taking a decision is in fact also a decision: it creates a situation and an environment. In the New Normal we cannot afford to lose time. Make an abstraction when taking decisions (like in our brain labo techniques) and take the plunge.  Traditional brainstormings lack the focus. Choose a route that creates clarity rather then endlessly brainstorming about little ideas. groepc 8

Action to be taken Clarify important questions by taking an effective strategic route that also takes a step back. groepc 9

3. Taking responsibility “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Sir Winston Churchill groepc 10

The principles  Not everything can be bought. In the New Normal companies have to earn their reputation.  Companies are no longer seen as neutral structures. ‘Good’ companies receive fan mail while companies who behave ‘badly’ get ‘hate’ sites. groepc 11

 Transparency is the new critical success factor. The development of the economic crisis has made the public, the government and other stakeholders more critical. People want to know more about you.  Internal transparency creates a diagonal control that can strengthen companies. Internal support and where possible change of culture are essential therefore. groepc 12

Action to be taken Establish norms and guidelines, translate them into your own story of social responsibility and spread the word. groepc 13

4. Making business of responsibility “Sustainability is boring. It is just the minimum. Design is the complete opposite of sustainability. We would still live on trees if we were sustainable.” Michael Braungart, author of ‘Cradle to cradle’ groepc 14

The principles  Responsibility can produce money. Get beyond the necessary and the sustainability clichés and make business of it.  All services and products need to be assessed against their impact on society. This is the most distinguishing factor between companies with comparable products or services. groepc 15

 In the New Normal the Western economy will need to stand out in fields such as genetics, energy, sustainability and knowledge. The importance of talent management plays an increasingly important role in this.  Rigid structures should not form obstacles to new developments. Green solutions may demand the creation of new bonds or new structures. groepc 16

Action to be taken Define your relevance for society and create sustainable product-market combinations based on the DNA of the company. groepc 17

5. Using your stakeholders “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung, psychologist groepc 18

The principles  The government in all its facets will be an increasingly important player as we emerge from the economic crisis.  The impact of interested parties or stakeholders on the success or failure of a company is becoming increasingly important.  This involves a government that plays an increasingly regulatory or supervisory role, companies that continue to acquire strength groepc 19

or a comedian who is capable of threatening the position of a million-dollar company.  Companies that achieved a good score on brand barometers for instance will be more vulnerable in the New Normal due to more discerning stakeholders.  Opponents may be important partners within strategic stakeholder management, like trade unions in the face of new investments. groepc 20

Action to be taken Manage your stakeholders. Make it clear who they are, what you want to tell them and how you get that message across to them. groepc 21

6. Engaging your employees “Some people have so much respect for their superiors, they have none left for themselves.” Peter McArthur, Canadian politician groepc 22

The principles  The crisis has improved employee retention. Now people are starting to peek outside. How do you keep your employees? Creating a recognisable corporate culture has now become essential.  The crisis and the change of generations have created ‘immaterial capitalists’, where other elements in their gratification basket are equally important as the financial aspects. groepc 23

 What stories can they tell at family parties? How do you create commitment among generations X and Y in the New Normal?  Does your company get enough out of its employees? Is sufficient use made of the four fields of internal communications? In addition to informing also binding, improving and involving?  Employees are also the first resource when it comes to innovation and corporate social responsibility. groepc 24

Action to be taken Take initiatives using different elements of internal communications that do not just inform, but that form part of the New Normal. groepc 25

7. Cutting costs in a structural way “Frugality without creativity is deprivation.” Amy Dacyczyn, blogger groepc 26

The principles  Employees and clients can only go a certain distance with reoccurring crisis messages. Take fluctuations into account and if necessary create them yourself.  When the economy is in a dip, you can get away with shaving a bit off the costs. In the New Normal you have to rethink things fundamentally. groepc 27

 Saving smartly means adopting attitudes where employees don’t put energy into saving on sandwiches while poor production methods may be costing the company millions.  The best way to save money is sometimes to rethink things from scratch. By doing this and by thoroughly reviewing business processes (for example using IT innovations) it is often possible to use new developments and options that are cheaper. groepc 28

 A new and more economical communication mix means that people need to be prepared to take more risks when communicating with the public so that they stand out from the crowd (because strong creativity can compensate for fewer resources), but it also means that stakeholders need to be managed at a micro-level. groepc 29

Action to be taken Set up non-binding review processes and if they produce good results be sure to make them binding. groepc 30

8. Managing risks “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” Henry Kissinger groepc 31

The principles  Because of the economic crisis risks are becoming increasingly expensive and fatal. Banks, the government and regulators are becoming increasingly critical and have acquired more power since the economic crisis.  Reputations, that took decades to build up, can be destroyed by incidents in a matter of hours. groepc 32

 In the New Normal you cannot afford to take so many risks. Make your company riskminded, make inventories of and fix risks and be transparent when things do go wrong.  Transparency is no longer a novelty, but a commodity. groepc 33

Action to be taken Map out your risks. Adopt the philosophy of the 3 A’s: Awareness, Auditing and Agility groepc 34

9. Developing new ideas “We have lots of good ideas, but they are never implemented.” Anonymous member of staff groepc 35

The principles  It’s no coincidence that lower management above all love brainstormings. All they produce is a temporary good feeling.  Don’t leave creativity up to creative people. Creating bonds between people, departments and differences is essential for new ideas.  Companies in the New Normal should not look for ideas in an artificial way, but should make sure that ideas are incorporated in the decision-making processes. groepc 36

 Business development is moving towards innovation management.  Don’t look for the ultimate approach. Striving for the ultimate produces an imbalance by definition between efforts and results. Every solution or project is a work in progress. groepc 37

Action to be taken Create changes in culture with strong and familiar communication from the top. groepc 38

10. Being relevant “The social media have surpassed pornography as the number 1 Internet activity”. Tech insider groepc 39

The principles  If you have to buy attention, you are not sufficiently relevant. Invest in relevance rather than in PR agencies.  The only way to avoid acquiring negative interest is to be invisible. But that option disappears in the New Normal. Grey companies no long succeed in being grey. Grey is no longer an option. groepc 40

 Relevance means adding something for society, surprise people, being original or spreading a culture or a mission that appeals to the imagination. groepc 41

Action to be taken Communicate your ‘big story’ to all your stakeholders, ensure that it is relevant for society and that it lives. groepc 42

Eight key words for the future Focus Participation Stakeholders Relevance Creativity Transparency groepc Sustainability Risk management 43

“From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang “The economic and business context of postcrisis times will not be the same as that before the crisis. The result will be an environment that is perhaps different from the past, but is no less rich in opportunities for companies that are prepared.” groepc 44

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