What is strategy communication?
Marc Bachofner, January 20, 2022· Communication
Strategy communication must not be confused with communication strategy or even corporate strategy. Strategy communication focuses entirely on the question, “How do we communicate our corporate strategy to our employees so that they understand it and act on it?”
With corporate strategy, you give your company a direction, a goal. And you clearly define why you are following this path and how exactly you will not stray from the path. This short summary is already enough to show the importance of strategy communication. Your company will only develop as you want it to, if every cog in your wheel really cooperates – and that only happens with successful strategy communication. You will find ideas and suggestions that relate strategy communication to web design, interactive infographics or even landing pages. What you want to take away from this is up to you.
Table of content
Goal of strategy communication
The goal of strategy communication is usually the same: employees should act sustainably, autonomously and in the interests of the company. What are the key messages here? Let’s take a look:
This is not about minimizing your company’s carbon footprint or carbon footprint. This is about pushing your strategy communication in the long term and not just in a transitional phase (e.g. a few months before and after a merger). Your strategy communications will reach peak awareness among your employees shortly after launch. After that, it will slowly go downhill – that’s normal and nothing to worry about.
What you do need to be very mindful of, however, is the minimum level of awareness you allow. If your strategy communication is carried by a campaign that lasts maybe a month, then you can be sure that six months later no one will really know what you were trying to say.
To execute a sustainable strategy communication that will convince employees who haven’t even started working for you, you need to use long-term media. You won’t be able to match the impact and awareness that comes from a well-designed event, but you can ensure that long-term understanding is maintained.
Autonomous and in the interest of the company
In strategy communication, you present to your employees where you want to go with the company and how you intend to achieve it. This includes a strategic guideline on how the company should act.
For example, the company should focus more on innovation, i.e. sometimes venture out of the comfort zone in projects, but still keep an eye on the ROI. Or the company should pay more attention to the environment, approaching projects in a more climate-friendly way and aiming for possible internal improvements. Now let’s assume that your strategy communication has been successful and that all members of your team live and act by it. If you now start a project, you will find that everyone involved will automatically act in the company’s best interests. So you can let your employees work more independently and know that you and your team are doing your part for the success of the company.
The path of successful strategy communication
Strategy communication conveys a goal and the way to get there. It is almost ironic that communicating a goal and path also require a goal and path. If we break this down further philosophically, we end up with the meaning of life or the question of which came first: the chicken or the egg. Let’s leave it at a relevant level and consider the fact that strategy communication also has a goal and a path.
Involve executives as early as the strategy planning stage
Corporate strategy comes from the very top. The company’s management uses it to decide how the company should develop in the short, medium and long term. That makes sense as far as it goes. As soon as it comes to strategy communication, the entire workforce is then told what the corporate strategy looks like. The employees can more or less understand this. There is no such thing as 100 percent successful strategy communication. And the employees can’t all just go and talk to the company management in person, because then time becomes quite a problem.
Fortunately, a company is made up of several layers. You can involve executives, such as middle managers, in strategic planning early on and get feedback. It’s in your best interest to have people at key positions throughout the company who can also convince others of your vision. If employees now have questions or comments, they can simply contact their superiors and they in turn also have the time to address the concerns.
Managers with a role model function
If I try to convince you to separate your waste while simply throwing everything into a garbage can myself, you will become skeptical. Your employees are no different.
One of the most fundamental words when it comes to strategy communication is: commitment. You yourself, and all your managers, must personify the corporate strategy with your heart and soul. Your managers become role models at this moment. The success of your strategy communication stands and falls with them. If they are not bursting with conviction, they are doing something wrong. They must be able to convince employees and, almost more importantly, make employees understand why your vision is the right one and why everyone should act according to it. Of course, you do not transfer the task of strategy communication to your managers, but you create another medium for yourself that guarantees success.
Make strategy, goals and activities understandable to employees
Often, different departments speak a completely different language. I’m not talking about Spanish or French here, I’m talking about working language. The warehouse and IT support, sales and accounting, upper management and middle management – all important parts of your business, but each communicating in a different working language. What this means for you is that you need to break down your strategy and goals to the point where the working language only matters in certain situations.
Try to reflect your vision in one or two sentences. Then survey your employees and see if your message came across correctly or not. If not, then you need to go back over the books. But if the message is received, then you know that your vision is understandable for everyone. Here’s a very clear rule: the vision may look different for IT than for sales, for example – there may be nuances that are area-specific. So when testing, make sure you ask employees from the right areas to also find out whether or not your message is groundbreaking to them.
Comprehensibility includes not only the effective vision and message, but also the way it is communicated. We’ll take a closer look at what that means in the next section.
Media for successful strategy communication
In strategy communication, there is a horror scenario: Shortly before closing time, you have to trot into a seated hall with a stage. There are people from all areas, but what you are interested in are simply your colleagues. You chat briefly together and then sit down. Every chair is occupied, whether that was just luck or lazy precision, you don’t know. The important people are stationed on the stage. Someone greets everyone present and starts a presentation. It’s about the future of your business and how “everyone and anyone can do their part.” The person on stage continues reading from cards and the presentation slides while some attendees have already disappeared into their smartphones. Even some of the important people on stage lower their heads. For a nap or the latest headlines? Who knows. After an indeterminate amount of time and a round of applause, you can finally go home with the words “so that we can greet them all with a new vision starting tomorrow”.
Fortunately, there are only isolated stories of such strategy communication events. But they still serve well as a reminder to anyone and everyone looking for ways and mediums for successful strategy communication. Don’t try to convince your employees with just one monster event. You simply won’t succeed. What matters is the use of different media and that you follow a clear plan by aligning all media.
Just like our horror scenario, employee meetings are about convincing as many or as many of your employees as possible of your vision at one event. The advantage here: You speak personally to many employees at once. And what is another advantage: You can embellish the meeting as you wish.
Let’s go into the advantage of personal contact: You and your managers will tell the other employees about your vision and your message at this meeting. You can show them live your enthusiasm and conviction. You will have the opportunity to describe in your own words the new path and why it will lead the entire company to its goal. You must never underestimate the effect of an honest speech, because your employees will not only understand your vision, but also immediately appreciate and respect you more as a person.
And how do you decorate a meeting appropriately? Well, you use the brain’s simple drive to be entertained. If you bring a lot of employees to a meeting, make sure they are entertained. Once you get bored, you can forget about your vision. Entertainment doesn’t mean you have to organize a concert or a circus…but would be pretty cool. For example, provide drinks and snacks, and you could also rent a Hau den Lukas that you change entirely in line with your vision. How about having employees pound a pile of paper with a hammer – the harder they hit, the more paper they saved – and then see how many trees they can save that way. Or you can run a video of your vision on screens or use QR codes to send attendees to a website with key information. You don’t have to give your employees the experience of a lifetime, but you can make an effort. And don’t forget: We also perceive things subconsciously. So part of the vision on coasters isn’t a bad idea either.
The miracle of the Internet has brought us many good things as well as bad. In this case, we have found something good again. You can give your employees a little experience by incorporating your business strategy into a website. For example, the user could be in a jungle and has to find the way to the treasure. Along the way, he has to avoid obstacles and solve puzzles to reach his destination. And quite coincidentally, the puzzles and obstacles are tied to your path to achieve your vision. This is a fun way for your employees to learn about your message. It can also be kept more simple and be more of an exploration than an experience, the principle being that users are happy to spend time on it.
An interesting field of application for web design is in the area of blended learning. Blended learning refers to a method of imparting knowledge that combines personal contact and technical aids. So on site, for example, a work colleague could show a new employee the coffee machine and introduce colleagues. These are things that need to be adapted to the individual work location and encourage personal contact with the team. For general information about the company or the company strategy, you can then rely on a digital solution such as an e-learning that is designed the same for all new employees.
The medium of web design offers you the opportunity to pursue long-term strategy communication, because you can easily keep the website up and running and even make changes as needed. Another point in favor of a website, or a digital solution in general, is that not only can you communicate your vision, but after a certain period of time you can also examine whether your employees still understand and follow your vision. To do this, you can add a survey or quiz to your website to elicit the data.
What also belongs in the area of web design are the intranet and internal newsletters. You can make your website or other digital solution public or use the intranet to ensure that only your employees have access to your vision.
As mentioned earlier, face-to-face conversations are the most powerful tool in terms of knowledge transfer. In a face-to-face conversation, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of the knots your employees are tying with your vision. You can address issues, learn to understand perspectives, and you may even find potential for improving your message in conversation.
Face-to-face conversations are the most powerful but also the most time-consuming weapon. You can’t imagine setting up a meeting with all employees and then chatting together. You wouldn’t do anything else there. But what you can do to still benefit from the effect of face-to-face conversations is to incorporate face-to-face conversations as the medium of your strategy communication. So you would set up a meeting with some employees, and those employees would in turn set up a meeting with other employees. Still, not every person in the company needs to be convinced in a face-to-face conversation, but as alluded to above, it’s in your best interest to have people at key positions in your company who you know can explain your vision to others in a way they can understand.
The staff meeting is a pretty big undertaking. Its little brother is the workshop. You take a select group of your employees and communicate what your vision looks like to that very group in the workshop. A best practice here is to conduct the workshops within each area to focus more on the effective impact on that area.
The selected group again gives you the opportunity to focus on details. For example, the workshop on digitization in IT can develop its own character when it comes to the exact technical details such as software updates or implementations of new tools. This is precisely where you can professionally convince your employees of your vision.
Podcasts have received a strong boost during the Corona crisis. Some people are very happy about that and in the meantime podcasts have become a relevant medium – especially for companies. You don’t have to want to win new customers directly with your podcast, it can also be about presenting your company as an expert. Another idea is that you can address your podcast entirely to your employees to talk about company events, stress management and internal training. And you know what else you can address? Your corporate strategy.
Try to analyze your corporate strategy and figure out what could fit into a podcast. You can’t present your entire strategy and hope your listeners will put up with it. For example, take one aspect that is important to you personally and explain your point of view on that issue. Talk off the cuff and let your employees share your thought processes. With this approach, you get people thinking and discussing, which leads to internalizing your vision.
Wie effektiv ist Ihre Strategiekommunikation?
Have you launched a strategy communication and are convinced of your work? Give the starting signal right away and off you go! Not so fast. First, you need to define how to measure the effectiveness of your strategy communication. On the one hand, you could go survey each of your employees or send a survey to all of them and hope they fill it out and send it back. That can work and in some form you should definitely do that. Let’s take web design as an example again. You can use this to create surveys that your employees will be happy to fill out. Add an overview page so users can see for themselves how your vision is doing, and continually adjust the content of the survey to get exactly the information you need.
But let’s not forget here that not all participants in a survey fill it out truthfully and the number of participants drops off a lot over time. That’s why you need the objective facts and figures you want to achieve over time.
Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Map
In general, there are four perspectives that are relevant for a company: Finance, Customers, Processes, and Learning and Development. Therefore, it is not surprising that when creating a corporate strategy, metrics are introduced for exactly these four perspectives. This combination of metrics, associated goals, and measures to achieve the goals is called the Balanced Scorecard.
The Balanced Scorecard provides a quick and good numerical overview of the corporate strategy and how the strategy communication is hitting. What’s missing now is an informative overview that shows employees how, for example, achieving a certain profit total affects customer satisfaction or why employee training promotes process optimization and innovation. This information is summarized in the Strategy Map. The strategy map helps companies to implement their strategy and at the same time serves as an important instrument for strategy communication. You can use it to communicate all the interrelationships to your employees and make it easier to understand why the new corporate strategy is forward-looking.
Present and discuss key figures
One sure approach to measuring the effectiveness of strategy communication is to use outcome indicators. One type of outcome metrics are lagging indicators. These are factors that tell you whether a long-term trend can be observed after a major change, such as expansion into a new market or a change in corporate strategy. In concrete terms, this means that lagging indicators show you whether your company is seeing a change in employee behavior – which is, after all, the ultimate goal of your strategy communication.
There are countless types of lagging indicators. You need to focus on getting them right. There must be a clear target/actual comparison for the relevant people – you want a clear announcement so that you can discuss the facts and figures with the relevant people.
Feedback and continuous improvement
With strategy communication, you want to reach your employees, so you also need to listen to them when they have something to say. Feedback is helpful and desired in all areas – this includes strategy communication. When it comes to the form of feedback, you can again rely on various media that you consider appropriate. However, you should make sure that you get really good feedback. Good does not mean positive, good means honest. So focus on getting honest responses. Don’t force your employees – you’d rather have ten good feedbacks instead of a hundred shoo-hoo ones.
Feedback allows you to continuously adjust your strategy communication. The theme of continuous improvement plays a big role here. By continuously gathering feedback – before, during and after the launch – you can use this input to constantly adapt your strategy communication. For example, if the medium of workshops is not well received by your employees, but your podcast is gaining more and more listeners, then you can increase your efforts around the podcast and consider a strategy for your workshops.
With your strategy communication, you want to convince your employees of the corporate strategy and get them to act accordingly. This is much easier said than done, but if you always imagine your employees as a target group, use different media, and continuously adapt your plans, you will be on the safe side.