35 years experience in corporate communications, heading communications teams at Merck, United Technologies, Purdue Pharma, Yale University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Offers expertise in foundation leadership, academic public affairs, and issues management.
Founded True North Strategies, LLC, strategic communications consultancy to build on leadership role at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, guiding communications strategy to advance the influence and effectiveness of non-profit organizations.
Everything great in life and business is born out of great communication.
Most organizations devote a lot of time and resources working to retain and deepen relationships with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, donors, board members, and policy makers. But too often the strategies and tactics for communicating to different audiences are fragmented, with each part of the organization navigating off a different chart.
This fragmentation can lead to confusion in terms of messaging, but it can also undermine your brand value, negatively affect your market share and diminish your impact. Since communications touch everything in an organization, from sales and customer loyalty to employee morale and retention, it is important that the communications, marketing and talent teams are aligned.
We also live in an era when consumers and employees are incredibly savvy and assertive; if they think that what you're communicating isn't genuine, they'll detect it and call it out on social media.
Indeed, trust is the Holy Grail in communications, both internally and externally. Without trust, communications will not lead to engagement and action, whether that's measured in purchases of goods and services or contributions to an important cause. Trust is not a commodity that can be bought. Rather, it must be earned by consistent, authentic and respectful communications.
When you're conceiving of and adapting your communications strategies, it's important to remember three things about your audience that have shifted dramatically in the past five years:
Communications cannot be – and should not be – controlled by the C-suite: Through social media, your employees are the best ambassadors for your brand.
Millennials, who now constitute the largest component of the workforce, place greater value on creating social good than on creating wealth. Communications that focus exclusively on growing profits will fail because they no longer reflect the taste and preferences of a majority of today's audiences.
Leaders need to understand that listening is every bit as important as talking.
Finally, when it comes to communications, it's important to take calculated risks. Don't be locked into a prescribed message or "voice" that lacks imagination; surprise your audience with something unexpected and refreshing. The ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge" taught us the value of mixing it up! This means creating an organizational culture that encourages experimentation and doesn't punish failure.