Communication for Business

(Image used for illustrative purpose only)
Businesses need to communicate. Not just with customers but across the entire spectrum of stakeholders. In India, this spectrum for, say, a real estate builder/developer may include the politicians at centre, region and local level, the policy makers, regulators, employees, shareholders, vendors, competitors, opinion makers like media, intermediaries, distribution channels, those affected by its project, tax officials, judiciary, law enforcement agencies, other concerned government departments, academicians, consultants/experts, right up to that local don or bhai in every area where the projects are situated.

The list will be similar to almost other businesses with barely a couple of additions or deletions. For a business owner, the size of this business would be directly proportional to the complexity in communications, with mid-size businesses finding it most complex to maintain the optimum balance.

As a communications professional, what I have witnessed is that very few businesses communicate proactively with all stakeholders. Either the communications are injected into business as a life-saving drug or as per the whims of entrepreneur. Which also means that often it is too late or too misdirected. Most of them would have an advertising agency, a PR consultant, a social media infrastructure, etc. Most would tell these professionals on exactly what to do, not realizing the difference between the definition of problem and its solution in communications. It has been my experience that both the entrepreneur as well as the consultant will jump to finding the communication solution without understanding the problem correctly.

Communications work best when they are proactive, driven by an objective and implemented over a long term. Communications work best when the ownership for its success (or failure) is with an expert handling it.

In this age of instant reactions, it is advisable to treat communications as a tonic instead of a SOS medicine. Going back to the example of real estate builders/developers, it is considered as an occupational hazard that multiple police complaints are made against them by unhappy customers, employees, project affected people, etc. The trouble starts when one of these complaints reach the media. If the builder/developer has good relations with the media, then the editor, who decides what stories need to be published, may atleast call and inform of the story going against the builder/developer and whether they have to say anything about it. When the news appears next day (if at all it does so), it will be a balanced story causing minimum damage to the reputation. In a business where reputation is everything, the tonic has worked!

Instead of a real estate entrepreneur, you can be in a similar situation. From a worm in the food product to a camera in the changing room to a #MeToo mess. Anything is possible. For situations like these, the tonic called communications is better than communications as a SOS medicine.

If the buck always stops at you, it is advisable that you are healthy enough to stop it. The future of your business depends upon it.