11 ways to communicate with purpose

11 ways to communicate with purpose

Filter tag: Change Management and Executive Outplacement, Culture & Organisational Effectiveness, Customer & Brand, Leadership Capability, Strategies for Growth

Once upon a time, senior executives and leadership tended to work behind closed office doors. The public face of the company – chair, CEO – or appropriate spokesperson would be wheeled out only occasionally to communicate big news.

Today, visibility, transparency and influence are cornerstones of strong and effective leadership. Consumers and clients, now used to the sharing connectivity and culture ushered in by social media, want to know who they are buying from or working with. Are they aligned ethically and brand-wise with the decision makers and, in the case of consumers, individuals profiting from their hard-earned money?

Talent also wants to feel connected to leadership, to feel they know and trust the people they work for and are valued.

If you are leading a medium to large organisation, you will have your own internal and external comms teams to manage the daily output of information, working in tandem with leadership to help maintain consistency and protect and promote the brand.

Alongside and above that, executives should be thinking about ways to position themselves as thought leaders and be seen to embody the essence and ethos of the organisation. Positive visibility will enhance relations with all stakeholders, raise your profile and further the objectives of the company as well as your own career.


Here are 11 steps to communicating with purpose.

1. Identify your purpose. Take time to consider why it is that you do what you do, as an individual and as an organisation. If you want stakeholders to believe, you have to bring them on board with your vision. Sometimes, with nose constantly to the grindstone, it is easy to lose sight of your purpose. Step back and ask, what you are expecting your core audience to buy into and why?

How do you want to come across? Tesla is an interesting case in point. The cult of personality around unpredictable CEO Elon Musk would never work in a bank or insurance company which needs a safe pair of hands. But Musk’s risk-taking innovative leadership style is perfectly matched to his disruptive brand.

How does your leadership style support your purpose and how can you communicate that effectively?


2. Consider the strategic objective behind every communication. What is your key messaging? What do you want to say about your organisation and your part in it and why?

Start with the objective, or call to action, and work backwards to the content and delivery. How do you wish to position yourself? Are you the right person to deliver this message? Think carefully about the words you use around your brand – imagine a word cloud, mentally sketch in the vocabulary you would like to see with your name or company name; try to include as many of those words as you can.

Are you in crisis comms mode? How can you turn that negative attention into a positive?

Are you seeking to build bridges with staff and stakeholders? How can you open channels of communication?

Or are you proactively promoting yourself and your company? Then alignment with branding or a specific campaign should be the priority.

You don’t have to wait until you have news to impart. Events in the wider world can be a springboard for thought leadership pieces as long as they are relevant, timely and you genuinely have something to add to the conversation. Keep the contact going and your presence consistent with regular, targeted output.


3: Consider who you want to reach. Is it customers? Investors? Your workforce? External stakeholders? Is your audience domestic or multi-national? Niche or broad? Tailor your style of delivery accordingly.

One of the greatest challenges facing leadership post-pandemic is maintaining cohesion and engagement from hybrid workforces. Use different channels, both synchronous and asynchronous, to make remote staff feel included and connected. Record personal messages or stream live to celebrate milestones, praise specific teams for jobs well done and share important news.


4: Think where and how you are going to reach them. Meet your target audience in the spaces where they hang out. Gen Z and Alpha – born in the last 25 years – might be more receptive to a TikTok or YouTube video. You’ll find Millennials there but also on Instagram, Whatsapp and Twitter/X.  Language and length of your message should be modified to suit without going completely native –  trying to be “down with the kids” will only ever backfire.

If it’s the business community you want to influence, LinkedIn with its cautious creativity remains the most important channel.

With website blogs and insights, get help with your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation – pushing you up on keyword internet searches) to extend your reach.

If you’re looking to build strong relationships, real life meetings will always be the best way to energise and engage people directly but webinars are more accessible globally and, with the right visual aids and personalities presenting, can have a longer shelf life than a live event if they are recorded and shared via YouTube and other channels.

Podcasts are another way to grow your influence and reach new, global markets in a specific field of interest. Relatively easy and inexpensive to make, they can be carefully choreographed to appear off the cuff and accessible. They offer an excellent opportunity to cloak your branding or messaging in a wide-ranging conversational format that feels more like an experience and less like hard marketing. Audio is often accessed by people when they have time to kill, commuting, walking, waiting, and wearing headphones, making it a focused, immersive listening activity.

However you decide to get your thought leadership out there, choose a Zeitgeist subject, do your research, think how you are going to incorporate key messaging and push it on social media.


5: Don’t be sesquipedalian! (that’s a long word for overusing long words, but you probably knew that already.) Stick to plain, inclusive English (or whatever language you are communicating in) wherever possible. You want your ideas to shine, not be eclipsed by the way you express them.

If you are communicating to a closed group of individuals who are all well versed in your specific sector language, acronyms and technical terms are acceptable.

In all other instances, avoid them. If you are communicating with a broad audience, imagine you are talking or writing to an intelligent 12-year-old. That way, you will avoid being condescending or alienating people. Always use the shortest appropriate word instead of trying to dazzle with complex vocabulary. If you need to use a specific technical term, explain what it means.


6: Use humour (when appropriate). Humour is the great leveller, gets people off their guards and creates emotional connections. If you aren’t naturally gifted or confident trying to be wry or witty, borrow other people’s funny stories or jokes. It’s a good idea to run your content past someone whose judgement you trust and who won’t be afraid to give honest feedback or via a specialist team before you share. A misjudged quip can be more damaging than silence.


7: Keep it brief and memorable. Go back to steps one and two. The fewer words you can use to get your key messaging across, the more effective it will be.


8: Make it visual and lively: This applies especially if you are appealing to a younger market or have a visual product to promote. Visual learners respond to images and graphics, auditory to verbal information. If you can incorporate both, you’re spreading your net wider.


9: Conversations not monologues. When communicating with stakeholders, especially employees, ensure channels are open for two-way communication. Not only will it make people feel invested, appreciated and listened to, they may have invaluable insights to share. As a leader, you can offer them a safe space to sound them out without risk of being shot down or ignored. Respond positively to every suggestion, whether or not it is a goer, to encourage appropriate risk taking and creativity.

If you are limited to text, whether via social media or more traditional formats, ask lots of questions to fully engage your readers’ minds.  On social media, use hashtags, try to get a conversation going.


10: Give something of yourself. If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, connect with your audience by sharing personal anecdotes, thoughts and feelings. For example we’ve just had International Women’s Day – the perfect opportunity to praise the women in your life, whether your mother, partner or Chief Finance Officer. Let people see that you are a human being with multiple facets who understands your customer base or workforce.

Be brave and authentic. Showing humility by revealing your own vulnerabilities or admitting to mistakes is one sure fire way of building genuine trust with your audience.


11: Listen. There is so much more to be gained from listening than from speaking. Once you have initiated a conversation, how will you measure its impact and learn from the response? Feedback is invaluable data, whether positive or negative. The more personalised your response to incoming communication, the more you will positively engage your target audience. Active listening and effective communication can turn a critic into a fan or at least neutralise any negativity.

If you provoke an unmanageable volume of responses, it’s a good sign for starters. Respond in general and use analytics to help extract insights, measure sentiment and adjust your tone or content in future communication.

Of course, every individual has a different style of communication. Finding your voice and platform can take time. Think about what you want to achieve and look at the feeds of the leaders you admire or some of the most renowned influencers such as Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates and Mark Cuban. Also look at those in your own networks at those who resonate or your admire on what they do well.  See how they combine the personal with the professional while maintaining dignity and suitable distance.


Whatever your position, field of expertise or experience in communications, remember your wealth of information is an asset which is valuable to others and carries great currency. Sharing it can only open doors and build stronger relations.


At Rialto, we have a team of specialist consultants covering every area of leadership coaching, including communicating with purpose. If you need support building your profile or communication strategy, contact us on +44 (0) 20 3746 2960.

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