Have you ever been overwhelmed with information? Do your projects stall because you can’t find the right data? Are you constantly playing “catch up” on all your business relationships?
If you answered “yes,” you might be suffering from communication issues.
Communication becomes a massive challenge as organizations scale. It’s easy enough to keep track of messages when your business fits the “two pizza” rule. However, once you start scaling, communication lapses frequently get in the way of your growth.
One way to remedy these lapses is to standardize your communication. As this article will show, mapping your relationships, creating templates, and embracing automation can bring much-needed clarity to how your organization communicates.
Benefits of standardizing recurring communication
- Productivity – Any time you save crafting messages is time you can spend on more important tasks.
- Consistency – A standardized welcome email or weekly status report will always have the same tone, style, and content, regardless of its author.
- Structure – In any standardized plan, you know exactly what messages follow another and where they’re stored. This ensures that there are no communication gaps.
Identify one-off and recurring communication needs
An organization’s communication can be broadly segregated into two categories:
- Recurring, i.e. messages that are sent on a periodic basis or triggered by an event. Examples include weekly status reports, or onboarding emails sent when you hire a new designer.
- One-off, i.e. unique messages that are sent only once. Most emails, texts, etc. shared between employees or employee-clients fall under this category.
While you can’t standardize one-off messages, you can get a massive productivity boost by standardizing your recurring communication.
For instance, instead of creating new messages from scratch, you can create a template for onboarding emails. When you get a new hire, just change this template’s subject and send it away.
Map key stakeholders
A “stakeholder” is defined as anyone – individual or organization – who is invested in a project. These stakeholders can be internal (people within your company) or external (outside your company).
All stakeholders don’t need the same level of communication. You don’t have to update an industry influencer as frequently as you update your direct manager. And you don’t have to send the same type of message to your client as you do to your CEO.
The next step, therefore, should be to map key stakeholders across your organization. For each stakeholder in this chart, identify the following:
- Priority: How important is the stakeholder for you (as an employee) and for the business? A direct client would be high-priority. A junior employee, however, can be low on the priority rung.
- Frequency: How frequently do you need to communicate with this stakeholder? Your CEO, for instance, is very high priority but doesn’t need the same weekly emails as your direct manager.
- Detail: How comprehensive should the communication be? This is often inverse to the stakeholder’s priority. Your CEO needs broad takeaways, not 1,000-word reports.
- Preferences: Does the stakeholder prefer written communication or a video call? Figure out their key communication preferences (ask, when in doubt) to ensure that your messages are aligned with their needs.
Add these details to the organization chart you mapped above. Use this to guide your stakeholder specific communication plans.
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Create templates and establish automation rules~root~>
Your next step is to create templates and set up rules to automate all recurring communication.
For example, if you have to send a weekly report to a client, you can create a template that has placeholders for the client’s name, date, and reporting data. You can then capture data directly from your analytics tool and send it to the client automatically.
Before you start the templatization exercise, answer the following questions:
- Where will you store your templates?
- How will you store data gathered from or placed into templates?
- How will you control editing privileges?
- How will you decide what new messages to templatize?
Your goal should be to create an ever-expanding library of templatized messages that covers all your recurring messages.
Once you’ve created your templates, evaluate their suitability for automation. Some messages can’t be automated because they require complex data (such as weekly status reports) or extensive personalization.
In these situations, skip the automation process. Instead, create a searchable library with role-focused access control. This will help you control instances of data duplication, overwriting, or unauthorized access.
Create stakeholder specific communication plans
Stakeholder specific communication plans help you bring clarity to how you communicate with top stakeholders. It’s particularly helpful for high-priority stakeholders where communication lapses can be costly.
Referring to your stakeholder map, list out the recurring messages that need to be sent to each stakeholder. Also identify the content, format, and medium for each message. These should be aligned with the stakeholder’s priority and communication requirements.
At the same time, identify which event-focused communication (such as a kickoff meeting summary) the stakeholder needs to be a part of. Specify the content, format, etc. for these messages as well.
Once you’ve finished this exercise, you should have a detailed map of each stakeholder’s communication needs.
Bring it all together in a communication plan
Your communication plan is an amalgamation of all the information you gathered above. It can be as broad or as narrow as you need it to be.
This communication plan should include the following:
- A calendar showing dates for recurring messages (such as weekly reports)
- A stakeholder map showing top stakeholders, their communication preferences, and what messages they should receive.
- A list of rules for all outbound communication, such as email signature requirements, allowed links, etc.
- Your communication standards, including the general style (formal, casual), grammar rules, and communication detail all messages – inbound or outbound – have to follow.
This can be a time-intensive process. However, by documenting all your requirements, you’ll find it much easier to keep track of your communication. The result is fewer misplaced messages, more clarity, and enhanced consistency – everything a growing organization needs.
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