5 ways to improve project-based communications
In today’s business environment, companies are under a significant amount of pressure – to expand and grow, improve operational efficiencies, and better meet the needs of consumers. Change initiatives are becoming ubiquitous as organizations look for ways to harness new technologies and business models in order to remain relevant in a world of constant evolution.
So often, however, change initiatives are unable to achieve their planned objectives because companies fail to consider a key element of project success: communications. The truth is that buy-in from stakeholders can make or break a project. If you know when and how to communicate with and engage your stakeholders – whether internal or external – you will be in a better position to make true and lasting change.
How can you make project-based communications more effective? Start by considering the following five communications principles before you move ahead with any significant project:
Know your stakeholders
Recognize that the people leading the change within your organization may be different from the people who will be most affected by it. Before moving ahead with a new initiative, identify all of your different stakeholders, the degree to which they might be affected by the project, and how each should be engaged throughout the project – from solution development through to implementation. While some stakeholders may simply need to be informed that the project is occurring, others may need to be more actively involved to ensure project success.
Develop a communications plan
Ensuring you are providing the right information to the right stakeholders at the right time can have a significant impact on the success of a project. As part of your planning process, develop a communications plan that is fully aligned with your project plan. For each phase of a project, outline specific communications activities (e.g. newsletters, town halls, surveys), and metrics you will use to track success. By integrating communications in your project plan, you can also showcase how you will use communications to mitigate and manage key project risks.
Be clear and transparent
One of the biggest communications mistakes a company can make is providing mixed messaging. If stakeholders can’t trust what you are saying, they will be hard-pressed to accept or buy-in to a project. From Day 1, provide your stakeholders with clear and transparent messaging on what the project is, the benefits it will provide, how implementation will affect them, and how you will gather and integrate their perspectives into the final solution. You should also make sure to provide transparency throughout a project, not just at the outset. If at any point you need to change your approach from the one originally communicated, make sure you provide updated information that outlines what has changed and any new stakeholder impacts.
Monitor and report on progress
Different communications activities will work better for some companies than for others. The challenge is figuring out what will work best for your organization and your unique set of stakeholders. Throughout a project, monitor and report back on the results (i.e. interim or final) of activities highlighted in your communications plan. This will help you identify the effectiveness of any communications activities and whether changes are needed in order to foster better outcomes.
Adjust course as needed
Communications plans should not be static; they should be updated as required in order to enhance desired outcomes. Most companies recognize the importance of regular status update meetings in order to track and report on the progress of a project. During these meetings, include time to review the effectiveness of any communications activities. If communications strategies are not providing the results your organization desires, adjust your plan accordingly.
Change today is a constant challenge – not just for you, but for your stakeholders. But by understanding how you will affect stakeholders and creating a plan to engage them appropriately throughout your project, you can foster the buy in you need to be successful. If you can get your stakeholders to be excited about your future, you can be too.