Guest author Crayton Webb is the owner and CEO of Sunwest Communications, a Dallas, Texas-based public relations and public affairs firm. Previously, Crayton was the VP, Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility for Mary Kay. He worked for Mary Kay for 12 years. Crayton’s professional background is in journalism. He was a broadcast journalist for nearly 10 years covering politics for television stations. Crayton was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and graduated from Willamette University.
5 Keys to Communications Confidence in 2020
The prospect of contemplating a new year is a time to reflect but also to plan. The election year ahead in 2020 will, no doubt, be one of the most fascinating in our country’s history to watch and participate in. It will also create challenges as we navigate requests for support from various candidates (many, if not most of whom, will have long memories win or lose); and anticipate a dynamic and fluid regulatory environment. The fact is, in times like these, especially election season, you never know when your brand will come under scrutiny or criticism. And you must be prepared.
What are the essential communication and networking tenets we need to adhere to that will help us survive and thrive throughout next year and beyond? You must have a robust and consistent message. Clearly communicating who you are, what you stand for and what value your enterprise brings, to begin with, can help get you through challenging circumstances.
So to put it in clear terms – how many federal lawmakers in the U.S. will be elected or re-elected in 2020?: 435 representatives, 34 senators, 11 governors and a president. The seats of power and people who hold those positions may (or may not) change, but your message and clarity on who your audience is cannot. This is the advice we’re giving our clients as the year comes to a close whether their operations are in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world:
1. Try to be clear, concise, and consistent.
Spend some time now to review your high level internal and external value statements, key messages, or what you use to define who you are as an organization. Make sure it’s clear and straightforward. The last thing you want is for your message to get lost in the noise. And, most importantly, do a quick audit of what your team is saying and where. You want to be sure everyone is on the same page and using the same language to describe your organization. It might be helpful to designate someone on your communications team as the “quality control” to ensure the message remains consistent as much as possible.
2. Understand the communications you can control. Let the rest go.
For almost everyone, this can be the hardest thing to manage. Control is an interesting concept when it comes to communications because it involves people (who have free will). Add in thousands of direct sellers and controlling communications can become even more challenging. Mary Kay Ash once said, essentially, her greatest asset was also her greatest challenge — there was only one of her and tens of thousands spokespeople in the field. Communications control can exist when you have active training. Of course, you will always have extraneous messages that will get you off track – but try to take time throughout the year to evaluate and ensure you are on track with the communications goals you set for 2020. You might find some messages that are of value and should be explored, and you’ll find some messaging that doesn’t fit.
3. Who is your messenger? What is their voice?
As we enter the 2020 election year, it’s a good idea to review your list of spokespeople – internal and external brand champions – and make sure they are still a good fit for your organization and your audiences. The most effective spokesperson for your organization in an election year is someone who can encourage, motivate, and bestow confidence in your external and internal audiences. A spokesperson does not typically need to be involved in the organization on a day-to-day basis; however, during an election year, an involved spokesperson can portray authenticity, knowledge and hope that everything is moving in the right direction. Voice, in this instance, refers to what they are saying and the intonation it takes. Your spokesperson’s voice (and tone) should reflect the organization’s message, values, and plan for the future.
4. Personalize your message.
Keep your friends close but aim to make new ones. An election year can be a volatile time, and your stable core network may need some reassurance your organization is the right fit for them. It’s a good thing direct selling is already focused on person-to-person selling and the importance of relationships. Personalization on this level will be highly relevant in a year that feels rife with conflict, choosing sides and disconnection. You have an excellent opportunity to seize on this personalization and strengthen your network with clear, concise, and consistent messaging. Encourage your teams to focus on personalizing their relationships. Streamlined education and training can help them get refreshed on how to do this in a way that is thoughtful and authentic. More than ever, people need genuine connections, and personalizing your message can be a first step in the right direction.
5. Continue to deposit goodwill in the bank of public trust.
It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing. It helps even more to be authentic and to do it for the right reasons. An election year can be a stressful time, so that’s when the philanthropic causes your organization supports, or communications about acts of kindness and goodwill cannot be left behind. Staying the course with and investing further in your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan will not only help protect and build your brand’s reputation but also keep your internal culture and morale intact.
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