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Issue Date: July 2004

Getting your message across loud and clear

July 2004
Terry du Toit

Are the stakeholders within your sphere of business influence, getting your message loud and clear?

Millions of words are written and spoken on the subject of communication and there is universal agreement on the need for the clear and timeous flow of information in and from every business, irrespective of its size.
Why is it then, that with very few exceptions, most business communication ranges from poor to abysmal? Examples include the CEO who is not available to comment on a company crisis; premature new product announcements without stock being available and frontline sales staff being apprised of the new offering; sales staff who undertake to call customers back or forward quotations and never do; delivery staff who are given incomplete details of the destination of products and materials; telephones that ring incessantly because the person being sought is 'on lunch' and to answer their phone is no one else's job. The list is endless.
Notwithstanding the lip service paid to sound communication, the reality is that too many organisations relegate the entire subject to a position of lesser importance and then wonder why their associates fail to do the things they intended them to do, or do other things that are totally unexpected.
What is the answer? Stop paying lip service to communication and elevate the subject to its rightful place of importance.
Identify the internal and external stakeholders that need inclusion in the loop for particular subjects. Does the switchboard operator need to know about a new product launch? Without doubt, otherwise prospective buyers' phoning in may well be told "we do not have such a product" or, be put through to several wrong departments! Either way, your organisation looks bad.
The growth in number and diversity of stakeholders in most businesses necessitate their clear identification and inclusion in a communication strategy that accommodates both the routine and reaction to the unexpected.
Internal stakeholders will include management, the various staff departments such as sales, accounting, procurement, production, warehousing and technical and possibly shop stewards.
External stakeholders will include the distribution network, raw materials and service providers, industry publications and trade associations, trade unions, local authorities, public relations and advertising consultancies, end users and of course, shareholders.
As things stand, many organisations either say too little, too late and cause resentment by excluding important stakeholders or say too much, too soon to an all inclusive audience, many of whom are totally disinterested.
Both are clearly undesirable so the sensible option is to develop and implement a clearly targeted and comprehensive communication strategy that is afforded its rightful place and level of authority within the organisation.
Terry du Toit of Fastrak is a business partner of Herrick Communication. To learn more about how Fastrak can assist your business communication, contact Dean Herrick at: dherrick@netline.co.za or 011 803 9909.


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