How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
As well as inward communication within companies, outward communications are particularly important and should be managed very carefully.
When you communicate with people outside the organization even on an one-to-one basis, the other person will assume that you represent the company and hence its brand. Consequently, any communication that does not align with the brand can act to damage the brand. In a worst-case scenario, this may be picked up by the press and made very public, amplifying the damage enormously.
As a result, many organizations have communications teams who manage all outward communication to ensure that it aligns with the brand.
Customers are a major target of outward communication for marketing messages, sales pitches and service interactions.
Marketers advertise products and engage in public-relations exercises that seek to develop general approval of the brand and create specific desire for the company's products and services. Sales people take this a step further, directly interacting with customers to negotiate the sale itself.
Service people have a very different interaction and may well be dealing with dissatisfaction. Failure to satisfy here can result in anything from customers bad-mouthing the company to their friends, to damaging legal cases against the company.
Customers may be retail, end-customers. They may also be business-to-business customers where a value chain is in operation, for example where a company produces goods which are sold to a distributor who sells the goods to retailers.
In such cases it can be considered than everybody downstream from you is a customer. In such communications you may be communicating through other agents, for example where a manufacturer's products are sold by shop assistants. A question here is how the originating company can communicate about the product to that shop assistant (and influence how the shop assistant communicates about the product).
Outward communication is also upstream to suppliers who provide materials, goods and services to enable you to complete your business activities.
The first contact with suppliers is where they market to you or where you contact them to discuss supply from them. This may then include negotiations and contracting.
In the same way that you interact with downstream customers, your suppliers will interact with you, providing goods and services and handling exceptions and complaints.
In an ideal world, suppliers deliver just what you want, when you want it at a great price. In the real world there can be many problems. All of these need communication which, if done badly, will create conflict and consequently increase costs.
Beyond the value chain of suppliers and customers, there are many other people an organizations out there who may have an interest in what the organization is doing. These can include:
Stakeholders can want a whole host of things from companies, many of which are of limited immediate commercial benefit to the company, but which can help paint the organization as caring and responsible. Looking after stakeholders, done well, supports the brand. Treating stakeholders badly, on the other hand, can have as poor an impact as treating customers badly.
Much interaction with stakeholders is through communication, which is easy to ignore when focusing on the main business, yet still needs sufficient attention.
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