We have been fortunate to work with over 100 organizations and businesses over the years. From “mom and pop” storefronts in small Wyoming towns, to companies with thousands of employees. We are generalists. We might be working with a private medical clinic one day, and a large coal company the next. We can do this because we are a company that helps with business fundamentals. If you have the fundamentals in place, you might need a consultant that specializes in this or that. However, we find that a lot of companies are missing the fundamentals and hoping that marketing or a big sales campaign will fix it.
Here’s the analogy we use: You have a car, and one of the wheels is “messed up.” Instead of fixing the wheel, you paint the car, put more gas in the car, and maybe even get a new engine. The wheel is still messed up. Now you are looking good and going fast but you have not fixed the underlying problem, and eventually, no matter how pretty the car looks or how fast it goes, that wheel is going to fall off.
So what does this mean? How does FMG help? Here is an example of how we helped a client.
A large public entity wanted help with their public communications and felt like their story was not being told. “We want to be everywhere, we want people to know our story, we want to be the ones telling our story.” The organization was often maligned in the media and stories leaked out of the organization before they could develop a plan, much less a simple response.
So we sat down and started looking at the organization’s fundamentals from a marketing and communications perspective. What was the organization’s mission, vision, and values? Did the staff and the managers know those, did they believe in the mission? Did the staff and management believe the organization was trying to live its mission, vision, and values?
The answer was that while the organization had a strong mission, vision, and values that the staff and management knew and believed in, the staff and management did not believe the organization was “living its values.” In early interviews, team leaders had a litany of complaints, but chief among them was that they felt left out of the organization and decision-making process, and they felt like they were always the last to know when something was happening with the organization.
Press releases and social media posts were not going to fix that sentiment. No matter how much storytelling we did as consultants, if those stories were not developed collaboratively and circulated internally, people would not feel like they were being communicated with and would develop their own stories and narratives to fill that void. Often, those void-filling stories were harsher and more negative.
So, rather than a brand overhaul or a communications campaign to restore the image of the organization, we started working with the 1000+ people in the organization to figure out:
- Who are the decision-makers? How are decisions made? Who is at the table? Who is consulted in the decision-making process?
- Who communicates the decision once it is made?
- How is the decision communicated? Verbally? Press Releases? Emails? Social media posts? Videos?
- Who is notified first, second, third, and so on about the decision?
Through asking these questions, we found the “messed up” wheel. In an organization of 2 people or 1000 people, decision-making and communication is always internal first.
If you do not have a good, clear, and well-socialized process for decision-making, you will always have an impossible time with communication. If a decision is made by a group, but it affects more than just that group, there will be friction and tension around the decision. People will push back against the decision because they are affected but were not consulted in the process. This often leads to rumors, gossip, and leaked stories to the media to try and regain control or vent frustration about the decision.
We designed a decision-making process for the organization. We identified all the people that make decisions (yes, all of them), built systems so these people talked to each other, and made sure those systems communicated with the executive team and the board of directors.
We created a short decision-making process. Decisions were not communicated, much less finalized, until the process was complete. An example:
Maintenance wanted to create more spaces for clients in response to some managers complaining their clients could not find parking. The idea then had to be socialized and discussed with other department heads who would be affected, refined, and then brought to senior leadership for final approval. Then, the organization’s marketing team jumped into action, first developing messaging for internal stakeholders like staff, then messaging for external stakeholders like clients, vendors, and partners, and finally broader communication to the wider community.
Within 3 months of implementation, stories stopped leaking out of the organization. Staff and managers started reporting that they felt more involved and felt like they were “in the loop.” The organization could start breaking stories itself, meaning they could develop and place stories in the media and have designated team members ready to respond with information that was already widely available and endorsed within the organization.
By identifying the core issue, we were able to help the organization communicate.