When was the last time you changed how you communicate to your team and to your customers? The way you deliver your message is key to maximizing its impact, or even reaching the intended audience.

Don't count on people reading your annual report for breaking news. Your team needs to hear from you on a regular basis, on a channel they can relate to easily and quickly.

Thus, top business leaders now deliver requests to their team via text messages, and even expect updates from top national leaders via Twitter.

As a business adviser, I still find owners and entrepreneurs who have never sent a business text message, written a blog, or produced a small video to update their constituents or highlight a key message.

If you know someone in this category (including yourself), here are some key principles, from my own experience, that you can help me pass along for everyone's benefit:

1. Every message must be keyed to your expected receiver.  

The limited channels for delivering a message have exploded in recent years, with social media, the internet, and smartphones.

Your team and customers will judge you by how timely and effectively delivered your message is. For example, I find that Millennials rarely read emails or policies.

2. Use professional wording and tone in all business messages.

Even with the new channels, don't forget that business is not casual for your constituents. Skip any urge to use abbreviations, slang, or emoticons.

Make the context clear, and keep the content on point. People still expect separation between business and personal relationships.

3. Build a communication culture of engagement and participation.

The days of command and control are gone, and you can't depend on your title and the management hierarchy to amplify and relay the message.

For example, messages are better delivered these days via informal weekly "town hall" meetings, rather than official CEO updates. 

4. Minimize the use of meetings to communicate.

Employees already spend up to 70 percent of their day in meetings, so meetings should be minimized and reserved for two-way decision-making opportunities, rather than delivering a message.

With modern tools, you can deliver messages in a much more palatable format, without lost productivity.

5. Use every message as an opportunity to highlight people.

Everyone listens to messages in which they expect to see and hear team members get recognized and rewarded. Even if you have bad news to deliver, try to couch it in the context of some positives and extraordinary effort.

Always talk to the people, rather than about them.

6. Remember, your actions speak louder than your words.

It's more important than ever that you be visible and approachable. Your team wants to feel comfortable that your actions are consistent with your message, and you are empathetic to their needs and feelings.

Even customers these days expect to see and hear you online and in public.

7. Pack each message with focused value to the recipients. 

People lose interest quickly receiving generic or irrelevant messages. Make sure every message you deliver is factual and valuable to your audience, and delivered in a compact and relatable fashion.

Don't try to pack multiple important messages into a single communication.

8. Always communicate as a person, rather than a business entity.

Real engagement depends on your team's understanding of your commitment to them and what the business goals mean to you.

Business names and brands are important from a marketing and consistency standpoint, but insiders, and even customers, want to be part of a family.

9. Follow up your message delivery with a question opportunity.

By asking people for a personal perspective, or questions, you show inclusiveness and concern for people.

In addition, their feedback and questions give you important information for follow-up and future actions. Overall, this is important to maintain engagement and relationships.

New communication tools have made great leaps forward in utility and potential impact, just like products. In addition, modern business leaders have raised the bar on employee and customer expectations.

Just as you regularly update your products and processes, you need to enhance your communication style and tools to maximize your leadership. Your success depends on it.

Published on: Jun 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.