Oftentimes, when marketing leaders preach their go-to-market strategy, it is littered with promises of press hits, bold messaging, social virality, and demand generating content. All are important aspects of any successful marketing plan, but, when considered in isolation, they are short-sighted. They often fail to consider one looming business reality that can trigger painful stress fractures amongst your team if they aren't treated early.
It is estimated that poor communication in the workplace is costing Americans upwards of $400 billion a year, and therefore one of the most important plans is actually internally-focused and won't deliver an attributed quantifiable metric for building your brand. Nonetheless, internal communications are critical in helping you run a faster, more efficient team.
Whenever I have helped a company with its go-to-market strategy and execution, I focused a portion of my strategy on internal communications. To make them more memorable to the team at large, I centered them on three of my favorite quotes/sayings.
Loose Lips Sink Ships
This phrase originated on propaganda posters in WWII. The objective was to remind servicemen to avoid careless talk about secret information that might be of use to the enemy.
For startups, the phrase can be used as a powerful metaphor to remind team members of what should and shouldn't be said outside the office walls. This list can include: launch dates, financial or other stats, revenue numbers, funding details, client information, etc..
Much of this information may seem obvious, yet creating a document and distributing it not only to your team (thereby opening the dialog for discussion) but also to new recruits can prevent potentially disastrous missteps.
I've always said that if I ever wanted to be a tech gossip columnist (and, no, I do not), I would become an Uber driver and simply troll the latest tech scenes after happy hour for inebriated coworkers from hot tech companies. The things people say while in a ride share with their coworkers would be plenty enough juice to keep a column humming along. Its necessary to give an overt reminder to your team that people are listening and word in today's digital world travel fast.
Prevention of crisis communication is the first thing your company should prioritize. Startups love to boast about their internal transparency, but first, make sure everyone knows what they can and cannot repeat.
If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written A Shorter Letter
Hands down this is my favorite saying of all time. It has been uttered by the likes of Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill, and Mark Twain, though it is originally attributed to Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician.
The quote revolves around the importance and challenge of achieving brevity. Oftentimes, when we write, we ramble. We become fixated on our explanation and therefore dance circles around our ultimate objective. In the workplace, teaching a team to write in a clear and concise manner can help everyone communicate more effectively.
Carefully thinking through the ultimate objective and desired outcome of any internal communications initiative is invaluable to a team. Haphazardly firing off emails consisting of blocks of rambled text is ineffective. In startups, time is never on your side. Some things, though, are worth the extra effort.
The Single Biggest Problem in Communication is The Illusion That It Has Taken Place
This witty quote can be attributed to the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Many people falsely assume that communication occurs when they deliver information to another person. In reality, communication only occurs when the person or people on the receiving end receive the information and comprehend it.
With the advent of new tools intended to speed up collaboration in the workplace, thoughtful communication has become more complicated. Email, Google Docs, Messengers, Skype, and Slack can help us connect and communicate, especially when a team is not located under one roof. Yet, when a company lacks establishing ground rules for the various tools the opportunities for miscommunication skyrockets.
The reason is simple. With so many options, people choose their favorite form of communicating and neglect to think about how the receiver of the message actually wants to have it delivered. Engineers love Slack, marketing wants it in an email, sales says to pick up the phone and someone inevitably books a 30 min meeting when a 3 line message would due.
Setting up ground rules around communication preferences can be very helpful. Have an open discussion and understand what works best for various teams. Talking to your team about communicating in a way that fits the objective and gives proper context is necessary to saving time and confusion.
Poor communication can cripple even the best teams. Ironically, all it takes is communicating about proper team communications. This is the best way to set your company up for success.