The ability to communicate effectively with your colleagues, partners, and customers requires you to think about more than just what you’re saying; it requires you to think about how you’re saying it. While all business communication requires empathy, transparency, and self-awareness, internal communication has the added layer of context and flexibility that it needs to survive in an ever-changing corporate world.
What Is Healthy, Effective Client Communication?
It is easy to focus on our own perspective in communication. What we must remember is that everyone has their own perspective. That’s why it’s critical to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes — especially if they differ from ours. But if you don’t do any work at all, you run into issues with employee engagement; with job satisfaction; with organizational culture; and with innovation. That’s because individuals need time for effective self-reflection in order to get more out of their experiences working within an organization — whether they like what’s going on around them at a moment. Through logical lines of understanding between a company and its employees, brands can foster mutually beneficial relationships — ones built upon trust.
Why Is Client Communication Important for Your Business?
Client communication is a critical component in establishing your brand. Whether you’re managing an internal team or marketing to an external clientele, clear and concise messages will help you develop a positive brand identity with your audience. The best way to do that is by understanding what makes up effective corporate branding. You should root your brand into five key pillars—transparency, empathy, self-awareness, context, and flexibility—and each one of these pillars serves a vital role in your overall success as a company (and communicator). Here’s how they work together.
The first essential pillar of communication is transparency. This means being forthright with your customers—no matter what it costs your company in terms of revenue. Customers are savvy enough to know when they’re being hoodwinked or otherwise deceived; don’t treat them like children or rubes. Be honest about how you work, who you work with, why you work in certain ways, etc. When an employee screws up, be transparent about it even if it means publicly owning a mistake instead of concealing it (like VW did during its emissions scandal). By doing so, you create trust and thus build customer loyalty for yourself as a company. Consumers don’t want to patronize brands that hide their dark side behind closed doors (and PR teams).
In communications for internal audiences, empathy allows companies to put themselves in their employees’ shoes. Research shows that employees feel valued when they know that leadership invests in their work—and an empathetic approach shows that leaders are doing just that. For example, when a company knows an employee is going through something difficult at home or has suffered a personal loss, putting out simple reminders like thank you for helping us get through these times can foster empathy with your internal audience. At its core, empathy requires perspective—if we don’t allow ourselves to see things from our audiences’ perspectives (internal or external), we have no shot at using empathy as part of our communication process.
Self-awareness is the ability to take a step back from your own thoughts and behaviors in order to perceive who you are. This is important in internal communications because it allows you to address challenges before they become impossible to overcome. An employee with high self-awareness can recognize how his/her emotions are affecting their decision making. They can then adjust their behavior, creating a more productive work environment for themselves and others. A great way to cultivate self-awareness is by practicing mindfulness; try meditating every day or setting aside time for mindfulness exercises like yoga or taking walks in nature. It will provide you with new perspectives on challenges that affect everyone—including yourself!
The most important part of all communication is context—the audience. Before you even consider what to say, take a moment to consider who’s receiving it. Different individuals in your company have different responsibilities and perspectives, so whether you’re communicating within or outside your organization, keep that in mind. For example: your internal team may know about your plans for launching a new product line next quarter, but if one of them accidentally sends that information out via an email meant for someone outside the company who doesn’t have access to that knowledge yet, things could get embarrassing quickly.
Of all communication skills, flexibility is probably going to be one of your most important. Why? Because people’s expectations change constantly. You need to adapt in order to stay in touch with their needs and expectations. You also need flexibility if you want your customers (or employees) to trust you. People will often tell you what they think you want to hear; that’s where transparency comes in. To build a trusted relationship with your customers or coworkers, it’s not enough just to have open communication lines; listen… That means responding appropriately in real time instead of reverting to old responses from previous interactions.
Approaching Client Communication Strategically
When you’re in a conversation with your client—whether it’s a one-on-one or addressing an audience of 100—think about these pillars. Are you emphasizing transparency? Are you approaching things from an empathetic standpoint? Is everyone who needs to be there (and their context) involved? And can we adjust on a dime if need be? Good communication can make all the difference in your relationship with your client.
Regardless of how you interact with clients, you’ll be looking to balance their expectations and your business goals. For example, let’s say you have an app that uses push notifications to entice people to make in-app purchases. It might tempt you to allow those notifications to go out continuously because they directly benefit your bottom line. But users may get annoyed by all those interruptions. You’d want to consider their feelings before setting a schedule for your push notifications.
The best way to approach client communication strategically though is to make sure you take time out for empathy. Make it a point to get in front of them and talk through what you’re doing before you implement your plans—and once you have implemented them. Then let them know if things are working or not as well as they could be, what adjustments need to be made, etc. When they feel their voices are being heard—even if those voices say no more often than yes—they can trust your business more.
As an organization grows, it’s important to maintain a consistent corporate brand. Internal communication plays a huge role in that. After all, how can you be transparent or build empathy for your customers if employees don’t know what your company stands for? Your brand communicates values and financials; everyday decisions that are made by executives also reflect on your brand. That’s why it’s vital to have everyone on board with core company values so they can share those with potential new hires and customers at large. Also, make sure that every time your business gets represented—whether it is on social media, at conventions or in an advertisement—it uses consistent branding strategies for maximum reach.
Relevance, Content and Context
The first communication strategy is relevance—it’s your responsibility to understand what you can do for your customer or employee. Second is content, which means figuring out what information will be useful for them. The third stage involves context: deciding when and where to deliver your message. And finally comes delivery: deciding how best to convey your brand’s message within a specific environment. Each pillar of internal communication builds on each other in order to create relevant messages with content that fits seamlessly into its given context so you can effectively build relationships with customers and employees regularly.
Integration & Optimization
Integration is one of those essential communication strategies that’s vital to building a good relationship with your customer base. It gives you a deeper understanding of who they are, what they want out of life, where they come from. It helps you answer questions like what motivates them? And why do they act in certain ways? And in order to build trust with your audience, you need to create messaging that show empathy for their situation. Every customer has a story, and everyone deserves to be heard.
Positioning & Targeting
Just as you want to position your product or service in a way that’s true to its nature, you also want to position your audience. For example, what type of job titles do they have? Where do they live? What are their hobbies? Are they male or female? How old are they? Can you relate to them on any level? Just like a marketer would need insight into these characteristics before creating an ad campaign, you need to know who your target market is. You might even reach out through surveys and create prototypes with mockups so you can get valuable feedback before creating a full-fledged landing page.
Final Thoughts On The Five Pillars Of Communication
The key is to remember that these five pillars work together to help build strong corporate brand communication. If you want your message to be received as genuine, it must be transparent with empathy. For it to resonate with clarity and power, it must get tied back to your brand’s values. If you want your message to reach all audiences regardless of context, it needs flexibility in its tone, design, or how it gets delivered. This may sound simple on paper, but there are few brands that I’ve worked with that get a perfect score on each pillar when measured against their audience’s needs.
They based all five pillars on factors that can change as you interact with your audience. Understanding that these pillars exist will help you measure against them as you go along so that you can see how your message is being received. If there are areas where adjustments need to be made or questions arise, reach out to someone who has experience in corporate communications to help you refine what’s happening internally. The result will be a set of messages that deliver your message effectively and help build stronger relationships with customers for all involved.
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