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Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 in Business, Future of Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership | 7 comments

Attention Leaders: We Need to talk by Frank Sonnenberg

To succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, organizations must give internal communication the priority that it deserves. They must view it as an avenue to release the creative genius of an organization, not as a bothersome chore. After all, communication acts as a powerful agent of change, a source of continuous improvement, and a catalyst for moving the organization forward.

According to 2010 Towers Watson Communication ROI Study Report, “Companies with highly effective communication had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the five-year period (mid-2004 to mid-2009) compared with companies with less effective communication practices.”

Employees are saying they need information today because it’s obsolete tomorrow; they are saying it must be relevant, customized to meet their specific needs, or they’re just not interested. What brought about this fierce desire to know more and know it now? It’s driven by the belief that in an age of abundant information and rapid change, you can’t be productive by waiting until the end of the month to receive a generically written, watered-down newsletter that doesn’t provide relevant information. While that may have been satisfactory yesterday, in today’s fierce global economy, it isn’t enough.

Management should embrace new technologies and support the various forms of communication that are available. It must view information as a competitive weapon, not as a threat; it must support knowledge and learning at every level. First-line managers must keep in mind that effective internal communication must be:

Multidirectional––upward, downward, lateral, diagonal
Objective––expressing all sides of an issue
Comprehensive––both in breadth of subject and depth of content
Relevant––expressing issues that are meaningful; for example, providing the rationale behind policies
Credible––expressed by those in the know
Inviting––cutting through the information clutter
Honest––truthful, factual, and error free
Open––a fair and open exchange of ideas; bad as well as good news
Thorough––containing more rather than less information
Prioritized––filtered by importance so people aren’t victims of information overload
Timely––the most up-to-date information possible so that people don’t have to go to other sources to get the information
Consistent––actions consistent with words
Appealing––easy to scan and understand
Frequent––disseminated at regular intervals
Reinforced––disseminated through multiple media
Coordinated––in line with other communication elements
Participatory––involving and relevant to the audience
Measurable––evaluated regularly to determine effectiveness on the target audience

Today and in the years to come, organizations will have to focus on winning employees back; building trust, respect, and teamwork between people; being receptive to and then acting on the best ideas; and once again instilling employees with pride in and commitment to the organization.
Internal communication will be a major force in achieving those ends.


This article was adapted from Frank Sonnenberg’s new book, Managing with a Conscience: How to Improve Performance Through Integrity, Trust, and Commitment (2nd edition). Frank Sonnenberg, a marketing strategist, has written four books and published over 300 articles. • IndustryWeek named the first edition of Managing with a Conscience one of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year • Trust Across America named Sonnenberg one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders of 2011 and 2012 • In 2011, Social Media Marketing Magazine (SMM) selected Sonnenberg as one of the top marketing authors in the world on Twitter. © 2012 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.


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Frank Sonnenberg

Frank Sonnenberg has written four books and published over 300 articles. • Trust Across America named Sonnenberg one of America's Top 100 Thought Leaders of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 • Sonnenberg was nominated as one of America's Most Influential Small Business Experts of 2012 • In 2011, Social Media Marketing Magazine (SMM) selected Sonnenberg as one of the top marketing authors in the world on Twitter. Managing with a Conscience (2nd edition) was selected as one of the top 10 Small Business Books of 2012.

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  • Peterborner


    I am currently reading Frank’s ( @franksonnenberg ) excellent book and recommend it to every leader or aspiring leader out there. I think we all struggle with Internal communications because often we don’t want to deliver bad news. Sometimes it can feel like we are exposing potentially confidential or, maybe, damaging information. It is always a tough call. However, in my experience, the more you share, the more open you are and the more trusting you can be, the better the response. I have experimented with sharing information with a caveat saying “this is confidential but I am sharing it with you because I feel you need to know. Please understand that I am trusting you not to disseminate it further.” I have never found that trust to be breached and I have seen a significant up-scaling of trust coming back to me.

    The advice and opinion in Frank’s book is underlined with a great deal of wisdom.

    Thanks for the post.


    • FrankSonnenberg

       @Peterborner  @franksonnenberg Hey Peter. Thanks so much for your kind words re: my book. Much appreciated! With regard to your comment, you’re absolutely right. The best way to implement a strategy is to get buy-in from your employees. When people work together for a common cause, everyone wins. Trust and communication are essential ingredients. Have a great day! Best, Frank

    • Ted Coine

      Peter, I love this line in particular: “I have seen a significant up-scaling of trust coming back to me.” That’s a powerful truth.

  • alankay1

    Totally agree. Transparency of intentions through conscious communication greatly reduces the misinterpretation and misalignment. It’s a productivity tool that has ROI.

    • FrankSonnenberg

      Hi Alan. You’re right on the mark. It’s very unfortunate that not everyone agrees. It’s their loss :-) Best, Frank

  • Ted Coine

    Frank, this post is spot-on. If nature abhors a vacuum, human nature is no exception. In the absence of solid information from our leaders, we will invent it – and this rumor mill can be a mill stone around the neck of our company’s morale.

    Want to end rumors? Share information quickly, honestly, and thoroughly. As Peter suggests in his comments, your people will return your trust by trusting you.

    Leaders: no one wants to be on the outside looking in. Share it all, and make every employee feel like they’re part of the in-group. But be warned: you may not be ready for the leap in productivity this boost in morale will bring you!

  • Frank Sonnenberg

    Ted, your points are right on the mark. “In the absence of solid information from our leaders, we will invent it.”

    In the past, leaders controlled the information employees needed to make day-to-day decisions. Leaders who continue along that path will become frustrated as they lose the confidence of employees whose desire for timely, customized, and truthful information is not satisfied. This all comes down to one word. Trust :-)

    Have a wonderful day!

    Best, Frank