Magazine article Communication World

Modern Communicator Share the Craft! (Easy to Learn)

Magazine article Communication World

Modern Communicator Share the Craft! (Easy to Learn)

Article excerpt

If the boss calls you a goose, take it as a compliment. When geese fly in formation, they travel 71 percent farther than if flying solo. Geese also make the most of group travel by taking turns leading. In our customer-focused business climate, communicators should heed the teamwork lesson geese teach. Communicators need to stop doing all the "flying" in the communication arena, instead teaching others and letting them lead.

"When customers read your brochures or your ads, that's fine," says Anders Gronstedt, Ph.D., author of "The Customer Century - Lessons from World Class Companies in Integrated Marketing and Communications." "But when you analyze the brand contact points from the customer's point of view, you realize that most of them do nor involve professional communicators. They involve what I call 'part-time communicators,' the people in the front lines: the person answering the phone, or delivering the product, or manufacturing it."

Today's customers are informed, price conscious and demanding of quality, service, customization, convenience and speed. And, according to Gronstedt, communication that consistently reinforces a company's message at every contact and creates a strong brand identity is the only way to build the customer and stakeholder relationships that grow a business.

"As communicators, we are oriented toward doing the communication. Now, we have to shift to helping others do it," he explains.

Beyond marketing communication

Integrated communication is Gronstedt's model for success. This is not to be confused with integrated marketing communication, which he says focuses on creating a uniform appearance and message for a company's traditional communication vehicles, such as advertising and product literature.

"Most companies have this part down," he says. "Companies now need to go further and look at all the contact points they have with customers and stakeholders, the ones that really matter. These typically are the personal interactions and the actual performance of the product or service.

For integrated communication to work, it must occur on three levels, Gronstedt says. It must he vertical, creating an open channel from top management to those with the heaviest external audience contact. It must be horizontal, crossing departments, functions and business lines within an organization. And it must reach out to customers and stakeholders.

Gronstedt, who is president of the Gronstedt Group, a communication training firm that develops e-learning programs for global clients, cites the problems Intel Corp. had some years ago with its Pentium chip as an example of how lack of this three-tiered communication created a serious problem for the company.

"Months before the issues with the Pentium chip became known, a mathematics professor was talking about them in an online discussion group. Eventually it spread to some 20 such groups. Several Intel employees knew of this, but it never reached the higher echelons," he says. "Even the CEO was not aware until CNN was literally knocking on the door."

Getting top brass to play

Integrated communication is a holistic approach that requires management commitment to helping everyone in the organization learn how to articulate a company's value to the customer. "Integrated communication is a view of how the business should be run, and it involves everyone," Gronstedt says. "It doesn't involve just communicators, but rather the entire organization. So it has to be a top-management responsibility."

How can you convince the front office to make improved communication a company-wide endeavor? There are sound business reasons. Good communication creates relationships that retain loyal customers and employees, which in turn save money and create the foundation for solid growth.

Gronstedt's book details the success that integrated communication has brought to such well-known market-segment giants as Hewlett-Packard, Saturn, Motorola, Ericsson and Federal Express. …

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