Break Down the Silos: Communications as the Great Unifier

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Today we bring you a guest post from Barbara Bates, CEO and founder of Bay Area firm Eastwick.

Everywhere we look or listen, there’s noise. Content proliferating. New and proven media outlets claiming their turf. Everything, it seems, is a potential platform where marketers promote their message and get their stories heard.

The noise is getting louder – and more confusing, especially as companies communicate across ever-growing touchpoints and disciplines. We see the results: social media gains followers, but with unaligned audiences. PR drives site traffic but visitors bounce because of confusing messages or weak calls to action. Salespeople follow up on leads only to report that prospects misunderstood the product. AR insights delight the C-suite but never reach digital marketing teams. Employees describe the company in their own words, adding to the confusion.

We all know we can do better. The question haunting most marketers is: HOW?

The answer lies in unifying the “edge” that touches a company’s audiences – a process that must begin from the core. Communications or PR is often in the best place to drive that process, serving as the central force that unifies the way companies activate audiences, drive results, and build brand clarity.

We need to think differently about the role of communications and its importance in breaking down silos. The steps below explain how.

1. KNOW YOUR CORE

Who, or what, is at the core of your company’s marketing vision: the “fuel cell” that powers your vision and mission?

Many companies don’t actually know what, or who, drives the key messages and actions behind sales, marketing, thought leadership, or internal communications. And many companies don’t pinpoint a place or person that’s responsible for keeping that message and story current, consistent, and cared for.

Communications can change that. Become champions of your company’s core mission and the messages that stem from it. The core is often about content: the emerging thought leadership that should serve as a blueprint for your audience-facing presence. Know the sources of this content and create the processes that support its easy flow to key players at the edge, whether they are in your organization or not.

Pro tip: increase your value across divisions by making current content, messaging, storylines, and other resources accessible on a well-managed counsel site, online folder, or the like.

2. KNOW YOUR HLPWC

Every company has an HLPWC (“Highest Level Person Who Cares”) about messaging and its impact on audiences. But few know who that person is.

Employees at siloed companies often think their HLPWC is their division lead or manager: that’s where they report and where their impact is validated. Success increases when people can point to someone who unifies those divisions and whose success is linked to business growth: a key goal of any communications team.

Pro tip: make internal PR teams or agencies responsible for communicating themes and fresh topics fueled by this leader’s vision.

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3. POWER THE PEOPLE

Once you know who is at the core, and who is your highest-level champion, it’s time to look at the connections between those sources and the people who interact with audiences.

Agencies can deliver huge value by creating the processes, regular activities, and focused leadership that gets these teams on the same page. Consider shaping a blueprint that connects the silos – or replaces them – and clarifies the process, schedule, and people that ensure consistency.

Think big. Go beyond the usual suspects and find collaborators in HR, sales, finance, and any other groups in your company who directly or indirectly address external audiences.

Host an internal meet-up where people can talk openly about their needs and the opportunities that are being missed.

Pro tip: use consistent measurement across all disciplines to specifically track the integration – and impact – of themes, messages, campaigns. You’ll find some ways how here. 

4. GET ON THE SAME PAGE

Make sure that all of the teams or divisions have the same content: clear and current mission statements, and audience specific value propositions to begin with, as well as insight into top priorities, competitive or market challenges, and specific themes.

Communications and marketing teams are ideal for centralizing this information and bringing people together on a cross-divisional “same page” team that understands – and shares – key insights, concerns, market updates, and priorities.

Pro tip: bring internal teams and external agencies together to understand the whole landscape and prioritize how unified messages can reach all of your relevant destinations.

5. HAVE A “PIVOT” PROCESS

Change is a constant. Part of your “same page” process should roadmap what happens when you need to adjust in response to unanticipated market or competitive news, a sudden internal change such as a major HR change, an issue in your business environment, or even a crisis.

Communications is in an ideal position to centralize how teams will work together at times of change or challenge, supported by consistent content and clarity from your HLPWC. The edge is a critical force during times of change or crisis. Have a clear plan for a communications pivot – one that ensures audiences get the right information at the right times – and make sure all on your “same page” team know how to activate it.

Pro tip: encourage cross-discipline teams that can support each other and strengthen each other’s messages, especially when things need to move fast. Partner social with digital, for example, encouraging them to share assets and learning.

All of this takes focus, work, and the support of internal and external partners. But it’s also our chance to shine as communicators. The right client-agency team can guide and even help manage the unifying process that helps your company’s themes and messages rise above the noise.

What’s your first step in leading this important change? If you help break down the silos, you’ll clear the path between your company and the clear, consistent actions you want your audiences to take.