Strategic communication is the deliberate planning, dissemination, and use of information to influence attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It is a crucial aspect of successful organizations, as it helps to align the actions and messages of the organization with its goals and values.
There are three main types of strategic communication: internal communication, external communication, and online/digital communication.
Internal communication refers to the communication within an organization, including communication between departments and between management and employees. Effective internal communication is important for building trust and ensuring that all members of the organization are informed and aligned with the company’s goals and objectives.
External communication refers to the communication between an organization and its external stakeholders, such as customers, investors, and the media. Effective external communication helps to build and maintain relationships with these stakeholders and manage their expectations.
Online/digital communication refers to the use of digital platforms and channels, such as social media and websites, to communicate with stakeholders. In the digital age, it is important for organizations to have a strong online presence and to effectively use digital channels for communication.
To plan and implement effective strategic communication, organizations should follow a process that includes identifying communication goals and objectives, conducting audience analysis, developing messages, choosing appropriate channels of communication, and evaluating and providing feedback.
There are several challenges that organizations may face in strategic communication, such as managing crisis communication, dealing with conflicting messages, maintaining consistency in messaging, and managing internal and external stakeholder expectations.
To overcome these challenges and effectively communicate with stakeholders, organizations should follow best practices such as developing a clear and consistent brand message, being transparent and authentic in communication, engaging with stakeholders and building relationships, using a variety of communication channels and platforms, and continuously evaluating and adjusting communication strategies.
In conclusion, strategic communication is an essential aspect of successful organizations, as it helps to align the actions and messages of the organization with its goals and values. Effective strategic communication requires careful planning and consideration of various factors, including the audience, message, and channels of communication. While there can be challenges in strategic communication, following best practices such as being transparent and consistent, engaging with stakeholders, and using a variety of communication channels can help to overcome these challenges.
The following are illustrative examples.
Being open, honest and forthcoming with your stakeholders as a matter of principle. For example, a solar panel manufacturer that communicates a quality problem to customers, investors and regulators in a straightforward manner. This can earn a firm respect and trust.
Strategic communication can include efforts to keep secrets from external stakeholders. For example, customers may delay purchases if they know a vastly improved version of a product is soon to be released. As such, a firm may have incentives to keep product releases secret until shortly before launch.
Defensive publication is the practice of releasing public details of things you don’t want your competition to patent. For example, a firm that develops a new speaker design may release details that serve as prior art that prevent competitors from patenting the idea.
Propaganda is manipulative use of communication to influence. For example, a firm that spreads disinformation to undermine public support for environmental regulations.
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD)
Communication that aims to create fear, uncertainty and doubt about the competition. This strategy was historically used by large IT firms whereby salespeople would imply that customers who choose products from smaller competitors often end up getting fired for this decision. This was so common that it became a truism in the phrase “Nobody ever got fired for choosing (fill in large firm name)”
Embrace, Extend & Extinguish
Embrace, extend and extinguish is the dubious strategy of embracing a smaller competitor or open standard only to lead them to ruin in the long term. For example, a large IT company that voices support for an open source technology but then help to lead the project in ways that cause it to fail.
Striking Fear Into the Hearts of the Competition
Striking fear into the hearts of the competition is the practice of communicating strategies that are intended to draw a competitive response. For example, a firm that announces a future product capability that would change everything in an industry. This may cause the competition to waste resources chasing this capability when it may not be feasible. This can be interpreted as illegal in some situations — particularly if you mislead investors by implying that you will do something wonderful in future when you have no serious intention to do so.
An effort to change things by communicating a vision such that it becomes more likely to become reality. For example, an early pioneer of electric vehicles who communicates a vision that sparks other firms to invest in the technology creating momentum for a technology that requires massive infrastructure changes to be successful.
Seeking to engage stakeholders such as lead users. For example, a technology firm that pitches its platform at developer’s conferences to increase adoption.
Promoting a brand image. For example, a CEO who communicates wild ideas about the future to promote the image of a firm as being innovative.
Communication that is simply intended to create recognition of your brand name and symbols in the minds of your target audience. This is based on the tendency for customers to simply buy what they recognize.
Public relations is the process of communicating to stakeholders such as investors, employees, partners, communities and regulators. For example, a firm that seeks to create positive investor sentiment by communicating efficiency improvements.
Internal communications design to build momentum for change.