When it comes to making a good roux (pronounced "roo"), it is all about consistency. it is about combining the right proportions of flour and oil (you pick the oil needed) to create a thickening agent, used in sauces and soups. A good roux has a silky smooth body, but this is only achieved through patient attention to the process. That said, each chef may use the ingredients of his choice to create the roux. Consistency in communication requires the same focus to ingredients, proportion and patience.
In these days of instant and broad communication, using social networks, the internet and email, a focus on consistency is often overlooked. In fact, it seems that the information shared in the daily news cycle shifts from moment to moment as incremental data is collected and analyzed. This begs the question as to how any business can create a meaningful communication strategy, that still fulfills the need for authenticity and transparency.
It's all about integration. Each communication outlet (e.g., website, collateral, events, online, email, social network) serves a different purpose. Some audiences are unique and many overlap. However, the representation of your brand and what it stands for must be consistent across each of these outlets. This means your logo, your voice and your culture must look, sound and feel the same. It does not mean that the words used to communicate are identical. It is possible to maintain a consistent voice while communicating in the direct, un-scripted manner expected in social communities.
For example, HP (my favorite target since I worked for them for 24 years) is lacking consistency at the moment. Their roux is a mess. There external communications as it relates to corporate strategy has confused shareholders and employees. Competitors love it when a vendor loses its way, it's an opportunity for them to capitalize on the confused messaging. Each of HP's CEOs of the last 10 years, has tried to put their personal stamp on the HP logo, strategy and culture. As a result, the culture, that was bred by its founders, fostered by employees dedicated to innovation and customer satisfaction, and appreciated by the industry, has been lost.
In addition, HP's identity (see our guest blog on Corporate Identity) is unclear. Are they an enterprise company or a consumer company. While I understand, and even agree with, the announcements to retain the PSG business (which is where PCs and WebOS reside), this extends the identity crisis. HP needs to clearly communicate who they are to each of their constituencies and clarify the benefits of providing value to both enterprise and consumer customers.
This benefit of using different communication outlets is to reach a broader set of customers who are interested in your company and its products. Aligning your communication with their needs is critical. Continuing to use HP as an example, HP needs to communicate with its enterprise customers via face to face, website, industry specific communities, industry analysts and online influencers/bloggers. Regardless of the outlet, they need to reflect consistent value and commitment. HP's consumer customers are leveraging the social networks to understand HP's commitment to various product lines and future direction for this segment of HP's business.
HP uses social networks broadly and will, I'm sure, leverage them to respond to customer concerns, reinforce strategic goals and augment communications through other channels. They use different Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels to reflect each business. Each of the customers for these businesses have different expectations for what content is communicated. HP successfully provides the most relevant content to each channel, but perhaps misses the mark when representing the holistic company. As they work through their current strategic challenges, I only hope they exhibit patience is achieving a level of consistent communication about their goals and the overall benefit to each constituency.
Clarity of goals, consistency of communication, relevant use of communication channels - its a recipe for success. Like a good roux, when developed with patience the results are tasty!
What's your perspective?