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Firing on all Cylinders

Communication Can Make It or Break It

Whether you own a business, run a business, or are a loyal, hardworking employee, everyone knows that business is all about making money. If we don’t admit that, we’re done here. Having said that, the majority of businesses really do want to provide the best service, product, etc. to their customer.  The trick (and there is always a trick) is how to marry profit and sound business practice. Ever heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, there’s another saying in some village or town somewhere that goes something like this, “ it takes a whole company to fire on all cylinders”. Firing on all cylinders means people working together to create success. The way to achieve this is, first, by understanding the role that each department plays; secondly, recognizing how the various departments are actually connected to one another and, thirdly, working effectively with each one so the company becomes the sum of all its parts and not like the bits and pieces left over after putting together your bbq!

To push the bbq analogy just a bit further, we can all agree that it is probably a much better idea to read the assembly instructions before actually starting to put a bbq together and we all know why (because we don’t want to blow up our house by mistake, do we?). Following this logic, it stands to reason that having a solid grasp of all the bits and pieces of your company and how they fit together might help everyone work together more successfully.

To be fully functional, most companies that are at least of medium size will have Communication & Marketing, Accounting/Finance, IT, Sales, Legal, HR, Production, Purchasing, and Research and Development departments (R & D depends on the specific nature of the company). Each of these is very different from the others and, yet, needs the others. By the way, each is equally important (just try not having one of these departments and see what chaos ensues- not pretty).

As there is so very much to say about each department, it is, perhaps, better to look at each one separately over a series of articles. Selecting strictly at random (yeah, right!), we’ll start with the Communications and Marketing departments today. Having said earlier that each department is as important as any other, a company really will not get far if it cannot communicate clearly (mind you, if it can’t handle finances, it’ll go belly up faster than a pig can roll over and cover itself in mud!). To the point, though.

Communication and Marketing are sometimes separate departments if the company is very large but there is definitely overlap.  A Communications dept. plays a key role in how the company is perceived by the public and, thus, worries about its reputation and image. The company website definitely has the heavy hand of its people upon it and they likely are responsible for the various social media postings as well. This is where “branding” comes in because a successful company must distinguish itself from all the riff raff (ok, let’s be nice- other choices) out there.

However, should a crisis come up (hate to say it but it does happen), they’re also the ones who do damage control and repair. As masters of rhetoric, they know exactly what to say and when to say it in order to stop the bleeding or make it seem like they’re not bleeding at all(look- it’s only ketchup). Perhaps we’ve all heard of public relations- well, that’s part of the Communication dept. folks!

As well, they are also responsible for information flow within the company, itself, and this is significant for every employee because this is how to find out about company news, various publications related to each dept., benefits, training programs, hirings, firings, etc. (ok- that last one is a lie). They’ll be the ones to send notice of important meetings that had better be read and not missed so, yes, they are vital to each employee even in the most mundane and boring way.

They might also advise senior leaders how to improve staff relationships and how to gather their support for various initiatives. Not everyone can explain a position clearly and effectively and might need help getting the message out or to have it spun a certain way (just listen to Trump- his third set of communication advisors are scripting him very tightly now to avoid more missteps). Communication is all about how you say it (whatever it is!). These are your language experts in a company and can either get you into a mess or out of one so, a word to the wise, be very good to them.

Now Marketing is very similar and, as said before, sometimes these two areas are rolled in together. Marketing focuses more on communication between the company and its consumer audience and has the responsibility of highlighting the value of the company and its product/service. It also shapes the particular image the consumer has of that company and it wants to, primarily, change the behaviour, attitude of the public regarding the product (this really is all about the spin). Marketers are masters at identifying their target audience (their “market”- hello?) and knowing exactly how to “talk” to them. Its focus is more product- based. Usually the flyers, brochures, adverts, and other publications will all have the “mark” of the marketer on them (too much?). They have spent countless hours studying how to tailor their product to the public’s needs (it really is an art) and they are “working” and “massaging” the message very carefully. Every word is purposeful.

At the heart of both Communications and Marketing are language and the psychology of human behaviour. Understanding how to say something, when to say it, and to whom to say it are fundamental to success in anything (anything at all). If you’re speaking Latin (and who is these days), no one will understand and, unless that’s the company goal, no one will have a job for very long.

A final note here- every employee in a company should care about their Communication and Marketing department(s) because their expertise shows the face of the company and its focus, direction, and attitude. Each employee needs to be in sync with these or, at some point, there will be misunderstandings or crises that the Communications people will need to fix (boy, they won’t be happy with that employee). Because these people are language experts, they can also be of great help to any employee who feels a bit stuck from time to time. All available resources should be used whenever necessary- remember, a company’s success rests on the sum of its bits and pieces!