The three Cs (and the fourth)

Imagine a relationship between two people.

Maybe it’s yours with a partner or a friend. Maybe it’s your parents’ relationship or a friend’s marriage.

Maybe it’s blissful, maybe it’s wobbly from time to time, or maybe it’s a continual stream of misunderstandings and niggles. If it’s good, you can bet the couple in question have the three Cs down to a T. If it’s bad, they’re not applying the three Cs.

“What are these three Cs?” I hear you mutter impatiently, “And what the blazes has this babble about personal relationships to do with my business?”

The three Cs are communication, co-operation and consistency.

In a relationship, most people would agree, communication is fundamental to success. A couple that communicates well is given a greater chance of success; each party knows the other’s views, concerns and hopes.

Co-operation ought to speak for itself. No relationship can work if the people involved are continually at loggerheads. Identifying one another’s needs and goals and working together to meet and achieve them is critical to fulfilment.

Consistency needn’t mean predictability or lack of spontaneity. It does mean peace of mind, no misunderstandings and no mixed messages.

And the reason this is all relevant is that business is, in essence, a series of relationships.

Think of the various relationships between directors, managers and staff; department and department; company and stakeholders; company and staff; company and press; company and public; and company and client.

Now think about which departments are involved in these various relationships. Imagine all the room for miscommunication and misunderstanding and the innumerable adverse ways this could affect your business.

You can reduce the risk of lost sales, failed client relationships, staff disengagement, department rivalry and damage to public confidence in your company by applying the three Cs carefully.

How?

The most sensible way to ensure there is good communication internally and externally, co-operation between departments and consistency of message is this: all communications channels sit under the stewardship of one senior staff member, preferably at board level.

He or she should have a modern and collaborative approach, great delegation skills and trust in his or her teams, coupled with a good awareness of technology and its benefits.

It’s also crucial that relevant departments (marketing, communications, public relations, human resources and IT) understand that they are service departments first and foremost. They’re there to aid staff, other departments, and the company as a whole to achieve aims. They’re facilitators. I’ve seen IT departments, for instance, with their own agenda and the mistaken belief that they should choose and own all technology. Wrong. IT is a collection of tools to help others do their jobs. The role of the department is to facilitate this – to store, safeguard and assist in the dissemination of company data. HR is more than capable of evaluating the software it requires to do the job; IT needs to confirm the software will work and then do everything possible to deliver and support the HR department’s preferred choice.

The understanding that these departments are service departments is absolutely vital to cut out conflict and ensure co-operation.

Consider now all the methods of communication a company might use.

Internally:

• Email, intranet, news announcements, department and company newsletters & in-house magazines, training guides, introduction pack, staff handbooks, document templates and more

Externally:

• Email, website, blog, advertising, marketing material, social media, sales letters and bid documents, company newsletters and magazines, sponsorship, signage, branded goods, press releases, articles, report & accounts and other stakeholder communications.

It’s a lot to co-ordinate. And it’s originating from a number of different departments. These are all communication channels which need to be perfected in order to exploit them fully. But you can only hope to communicate internally and externally with real and positive impact if your decision-makers and heads of department are communicating and co-operating consistently.

That attitude, along with the methods and processes they should put in place, will greatly improve internal co-operation and communication. That in turn enables rounded, co-ordinated, complementary and non-duplicating external communications.

Is that it?

No. You see, I’ve left out two communications documents that deliver the third C.

Consistent tone of voice for your internal and external communications is a sign of professionalism. It increases staff engagement, public belief and client buy-in. The same goes for meaningful, aesthetic and consistent branding.

The two missing documents are the company style guide and the corporate identity guidelines. I’ve mentioned these previously as part of how to protect your brand, and they should become a company’s bible, and made available to every member of staff. In combination they help every department and every employee to deliver consistency.

So, the three Cs: co-operation, communication and consistency.

But wasn’t there a fourth?

Yep – and perhaps predictably enough, it’s copywriting.

Every element of every communications channel requires copywriting. That doesn’t mean you have to bring in a freelance copywriter if you already have the skills in-house, but the three Cs demonstrate the importance of the fourth – good copywriting. Your copywriter doesn’t just help you create the style guide and corporate identity which should inform your every communication; he or she has a direct bearing on every piece of communication you embark upon. It’s not fluffy nonsense (although it sure as hell isn’t working in a steelworks) – it’s fundamental to the success of every relationship your company is involved in.

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