Visionary leaders help others see past the gloom and doom

Last night as I watched President Obama’s speech, I kept thinking about how the global economic meltdown has become the defining issue of the day, shaping the way we talk about everything. And it made me wonder how effectively companies are communicating to their employees and to other essential audiences: customers and potential customers, shareholders and analysts, suppliers and policy makers.

Whether a person voted for him or not, one has to be moved by Obama’s hope-filled vision. Americans, indeed, are “not a nation of quitters.” And they respond well when a leader stirs their best and brightest instincts, rather than their fears. I believe that employees and external stakeholders alike will respond to corporate leaders who can sincerely articulate a confident vision of success – diligent effort during the downturn aimed at true distinction in the better days ahead.

Too many business leaders seemed focused only on slashing costs to survive the crisis. But burning the furniture to heat the house is self-defeating. So is focusing all attention on cost-cutting. Productivity from your shell-shocked, demotivated employees will sink your enterprise further.

Leaders who can articulate a winning approach for both slopes of the business cycle will stand out when others seem only capable of wringing their hands.

And expert communications professionals can help these visionary leaders hit the mark with all audiences and stakeholder groups.

Strategic communications can help drive market leadership through crisp and consistent messaging. We start by asking:  Are our messages on the mark?  Are external product communications consistently aimed at driving sales performance, fully integrated into our marketing mix model? Are we quantifying that contribution and holding ourselves accountable for it? Do our internal communications successfully engage our employees, providing them a sense of confident urgency to seize the opportunity at hand?

I believe these questions are quite pertinent in today’s extremely challenging environment with companies slashing budgets and demanding strong, tangible results from their staff functions.

- Jon Harmon

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