Building a strategic plan that includes goals and the path to achieving such benchmarks is a fundamental element of business success. Without effective communication, however, even the best strategies will flounder. Indeed, businesses must make sure those impacted by any strategy thoroughly understand its importance and its potential impact on the organization and its people.
Communicating a strategy effectively to employees helps ensure that each individual is actively working to advance key goals. Employees at every level of an organization must understand and demonstrate the company’s key values for a communications strategy in business to work effectively. It’s not enough for upper management alone to understand this strategy; leaders must have key lines of communication in place to properly disseminate this information to others, down to the front-line employees.
At the same time, communicating strategy externally is equally critical. Doing so encourages investor support, gains client interest and provides a competitive edge. After all, in today’s environment, companies are often judged by how they are perceived externally.
Communications professionals must take on the challenge of summarizing all key points of a company’s business strategy and sharing these throughout the organization and with external audiences. Communications strategy, therefore, is more important than ever to modern business. The complexities of this task are the focus of a course in USC’s online Master of Communication Management degree program.
What Is a Communication Strategy in Business?
Effective business communication strategy is divided into two components. The first component is internal communications, and it concerns itself with the exchange of information and data within an organization. The scope of internal communications can range from a specific team within an organization or throughout the entire company and it intends to affirm the understanding of goals, current organizational standards and changes to existing policies and procedures. Common internal communication tools involve in-person conversations, meetings, company intranet and emails.
The second component is external communications. This focuses on the exchange of information and data for groups and individuals outside the organization. A primary goal behind external communications is to build and maintain a positive image for various outside stakeholders — customers, business partners, relevant population groups and the like. Common forms of external communication include press releases, advertising, public announcements and social media activity.
The Value of a Strong External Business Communication Strategy
Communicating business strategy to stakeholders and customers is crucial since shoppers are increasingly making their choices based on a business’s reputation. An underlying corporate strategy that defines what’s truly important to the company can play a key role in generating sales or gaining investor support. For the strategy to be effective, it should align activities with goals both within the company and among customers.
Effective external communication is an around-the-clock affair. Additionally, communication strategies that are designed to promote and preserve a specific brand image and reputation must be consistent at all times. This is especially true due to the ubiquitous nature of the internet that facilitates the easy exchange of information through tech-driven channels like social media.
The internet puts a wealth of information at the customer’s fingertips, and much of it is uncontrollable. A 2023 survey produced by Bright Local revealed that 98% of consumers read online reviews of local businesses. This statistic affirms why communications professionals must have a firm grasp of the information that potential customers may find online.
When a business strategy is communicated effectively and shared efficiently across multiple platforms, this information becomes readily accessible to consumers who are looking for businesses that align with their values. According to a 2022 report produced by IBM, 44% of all consumers seek out brands and products based on how a company aligns with their values. IBM also notes that this demographic is now the largest consumer segment. This coincides with the increased market presence of Gen Z, a group that has a strong reputation for considering a company’s stance on socioeconomic issues like diversity and sustainability before purchasing a product or service.
The Value of a Strong Internal Communication Strategy in Business
Internal alignment with corporate strategy is crucial to ensure that employees’ decisions are ultimately guided by the right purpose and shaped by the company’s current vision. When employees lose sight of their company’s deeper purpose and long-term goals, they can easily feel disengaged. This may lead them to fall into mundane routines without a greater vision to drive them forward to grow and innovate. For many companies, falling into any kind of routine is detrimental to the underlying strategy of that business.
Strong internal communications prevent the mundane from settling in, but it also carries other key benefits. For instance, it keeps employees interested and engaged. This engagement can make employees feel like they are a vital part of a company’s mission and not meaningless cogs in a machine. This inspires other positive feelings, such as improved morale and loyalty. This can make it easier for businesses to retain top talent, which can lead to greater profitability. What’s more, an employee who feels highly valued is more likely to provide suggestions or ideas regarding specific strategies, which could potentially lead to better processes or even better products or services.
Communication Strategies Examples
A company’s business strategy may start as a sleek outline on paper, but when these values and goals are fully embodied, they shape the entire face of the organization. Effective internal communications help ensure employees provide a cohesive experience from one location to the next. It also influences everything from the tone and typography of marketing materials to the type of greeting in-store employees offer when a customer walks in the door.
For example, a key feature of the business strategy of the coffee behemoth Starbucks is the “third place experience.” This refers to how Starbucks has set itself apart as an inviting alternative to work or home, where customers can settle in and enjoy their time. Properly communicating the idea of the “third place experience” to employees is critical, so they’ll understand and appreciate the value of the customer who settles in with a laptop. When employees fully understand and embrace the “third party experience,” they won’t rush visitors away or treat them as though they should be out the door quickly — thus delivering the Starbucks brand ethos.
Another key element of effective communication strategy in business is reputation management. This comes into play in the context of external communication, and it’s become especially important in the digital era, where it’s possible to build a positive reputation with immediacy. For instance, the American clothing brand Patagonia uses its social media platforms to be outspoken about its commitment to environmental and social issues. Their stance can help Patagonia develop a strong rapport with current consumers who may place a premium on companies whose actions align with their own values. It also builds a standing as a brand that cares about important issues, which could attract new, like-minded customers.
The Importance of Communicating Business Strategy Effectively
A company’s business strategy is a critical document that defines a company’s vision, objectives, values and business model. It also contains essential details about how the business will remain competitive and distinguish itself within its industry. A clear business strategy is critically important. It offers key information that helps direct and motivate employee activity and keeps external groups like customers engaged and interested in exploring a new product or service. A business strategy can be conveyed through an increasingly broad number of communication channels, thanks to the ever-growing influx of modern technology platforms.
Efficient communications models are crucial to any business today. An effective strategy defines some of the most critical points of business operations and should be handled mindfully to ensure that it’s readily accessible within the company. Communications professionals are tasked with outlining the proper path for strategic communications.
The tools with which a business can communicate to employees and external stakeholders will vary by business, but several valuable approaches can be utilized. A communication professional might implement quarterly meetings, newsletters or break room posters to highlight key points of the company’s strategy and make sure these points are always front and center. The best option for any individual company is a carefully tailored blend of communications that suits its own corporate personality.
How to Effectively Communicate Business Strategy Externally
When strategic changes are made within a business, the communications team should immediately take action to make sure these are shared appropriately with key individuals outside the company. While press releases continue to be an efficient tool for sharing certain announcements, they’re not always the ideal means of communicating with the public.
Social media is a key communication channel and a crucial method of dissemination for strategic business goals and insights. This is because it is not only unparalleled in its visibility but also heavily relationship-based. After all, in today’s world, many people buy products and make investments based on a company’s reputation — and social media can have a huge impact on that.
Individual approaches will always vary, but communications professionals should generally follow these guidelines for effectively communicating a business strategy externally.
- Promote the business strategy as a key part of the company’s overall marketing strategy.
- Develop promotional graphics that highlight the core tenets of the company’s strategy.
- Share updates to the business strategy via press releases, blog posts and other key channels.
- Promote strategy updates on social sites such as Facebook.
- Respond to social comments with information that furthers the public’s knowledge of the company’s business strategy.
- Design all marketing communications to implement a style and voice in line with the company’s strategy.
How to Have Effective Strategic Internal Communications
Strategic alignment must begin with business goals. The communications department is then responsible for developing streamlined strategies for obtaining information on those strategies and goals and filtering it down to individual departments and leaders. These leaders should also be equipped with the proper tools and skills to communicate strategy effectively to each employee.
But it doesn’t stop there. Communications professionals are also charged with keeping everyone current about the company’s intent and focus, even when this can change from day to day.
The following steps can enhance internal communications and ensure a company’s strategy is being shared effectively with employees.
- Maintain cloud-based documents that outline the strategy.
- Use email communications sparingly to underscore their importance.
- Create motivational visuals that summarize key points.
- Survey employees regularly to determine their awareness level regarding the current business strategy.
- Implement training programs that emphasize actionable ways to implement the business strategy.
- Host internal events that embody and encourage key corporate values.
- Specify clear strategies for two-way communication regarding business strategy, such that employees at every level have their voices heard and questions answered.
Getting employees on board with a business strategy can effectively make every person in the company a valuable brand ambassador who can help further the company’s goals. In this sense, effective internal communications can result in external communications that are even broader and more diverse, which could in turn promote the success of the company. Communications professionals play a critical role in activating employees in this manner. A successful approach to the company’s internal communications strategy can result in a highly engaged employee base, where all actions are ultimately driven by the company’s core values and targeted toward furthering essential internal goals.
Honing Communications Strategies in Business
A business strategy is only as effective as its internal and external communications. A skilled communications professional can help ensure that critical strategy points are shared effectively throughout the organization, so employees are aware of not only the overall goals of the business, but also how they can best support these goals. Communications leaders can also help gain new customers, satisfy stakeholders and develop profitable business partnerships by developing external business communication strategies that align with desired interests, goals and concerns.
Ultimately, a strong internal and external communication strategy can not only help a business reach its profitability and stability goals but also allow it to emerge as a trusted leader with a sterling reputation.
In a world where communication is constantly evolving, it’s important to stay current on the latest tactics for communicating effectively to employees, the public, business stakeholders and beyond. To learn more, explore the online Master of Communication Management program at USC Annenberg. Discover courses that address the importance of internal business strategy communications, as well as other key topics, including marketing, communications theory and strategic corporate communications.