Magazine article Communication World

Getting SMART

Magazine article Communication World

Getting SMART

Article excerpt

How smart are you in the communication process? Is your communication plan Strategic, Measurable, Reasonable and Targeted (SMART)?

When the communication team at Miles Inc. faced some major changes a few years ago, Elliot Schreiber, senior vice-president, corporate communication, led his team in the use of SMART public relations to implement a successful internal and external communication strategy. A billion-dollar chemical, health care and imaging technology company, Miles Inc., was formed in January 1992 through the merger of three sister companies - Mobay Corporation, Afga Corporation and Miles Inc. - with their parent company.

"We needed a way to get everyone in sync with the changes that we were implementing, and we knew our communication needed to be strategic and measurable. So we took an acronym to get people involved and to help them understand what it was all about," says Schreiber.

"We were three large companies and a holding company with our own cultures, objectives and measurements. Based upon the SMART communication, we implemented a Vision, Values and Beliefs program within the new company to get everyone focused on common goals and aspirations.

"What we found was that once we applied the SMART PR, we identified all types of opportunities that we never thought of before," Schreiber adds.

Schreiber says that too often people develop communication plans based on what they like to do - people who like brochures do brochures, people who like newsletters do newsletters. But is it always the right thing to do, he asks?

The SMART program involves people working in teams that make sense to the company, not just to an individual. What communicators need to do is develop communication with the customer in mind. They need to ask themselves questions such as what are the customer's business needs and how can communication help them meet those needs.

This approach is simple. Before developing your plans, conduct research to find out the current state of affairs. Using this research, and drawing on industry-based research that has extended validity in the marketplace, develop strategies to meet business needs. Ascertain what management wants you to focus on, such as corporate objectives, vision and values.

This tailored research also will determine employees' needs - the issues, what the employees are thinking, what they know, what they want and need to know. Deal with the issues head on and position messages so that employees understand the rationale for the changes.

Employees are more likely to buy in and support management's new business initiatives, especially if they involve significant restructuring and cultural changes. In addition, people feel that they are a part of the change process; that they have some input into policies that are affecting their lives. …

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