Communications leaders often serve as strategic advisors to top executives because their work sits at the interstices of many different areas theyre often the eyes, ears, hearts, and minds of the organization. Moreover, communications, as a function, produces artifacts that are ultimately a means toward an end not ends unto themselves and help propel an organization forward.
It is therefore critical for communicators to possess broad perspectives that can identify and prioritize the business objectives operant in each engagement; this is critical in helping to develop attendant strategies and undertake them through relevant deliverables. These priorities, and the level of in-depth knowledge required, will differ based upon the project or initiatives scope, scale, duration, etc. The larger and more strategic the engagement, the more important it is to understand the full picture.
Detailed Assignment Requirements
Write a 1200-1500 word Executive Summary.
Choose a company (or organization) for which you can obtain recent, publicly-available financial data that is published quarter-to-quarter or year-over-year (complete with trends and analysis). Like what you did/saw for the GE Discussion. You obviously need a company that has good data available, but you should also try to pick a company that interests you. It will simply make it that much easier to engage mentally and think creatively.
Research your chosen company’s industry position, competition, and outlook. Tip: you will need to review their publicly available data, and if the company you pick is publicly traded, you can enter the ticker symbol (e.g. Amazon is “AMZ”) in a browser along with “analyst reports,” and you will get a lot of other useful information along these lines.
Assume the company you chose has a CRM and other IT/technology systems, as we studied in Week 3.
Now, put yourself in the following scenario —
You work in the Communications Department for the company you chose.
The company just hired a new COO, and she wants to fully understand the communications strategy for the coming fiscal year so she can properly sponsor and support the business in her role.
She intends to pitch this communications strategy to the CEO (her boss), and she wants you to develop it. This will prove to the CEO that she understands what’s going on with the company and also knows how she can add value.
For starters, she wants you to get her up to speed with an Executive Summary, so she can “bless” the overall direction for this project.
So, with Steps 1-3 done, and knowing your scenario from Step 4, you need to write that Executive Summary for the COO, and she wants it to include the following:
A concise review of last year’s financial statements to understand trends in revenue, margin, and costs (from your work in Step 1 above).
A list of four (4) high-level initiatives you recommend for the company, based on the current financial state.
A brief overview of the competitive landscape and potential external factors that could positively or negatively impact the initiatives you are recommending (from your work in Step 2 above).
A list of three (3) suggestions about where she or your team may find/need other data sources to coordinate efforts for your recommended initiatives.
A compelling mission statement that basically “brands” the initiatives you are recommending in a way that the company can use throughout the year to keep everyone focused and moving together to get these specific initiatives accomplished.
An outcome statement that spells out in a couple of sentences what the ideal future will look like, one year from now, after the initiatives you outlined in your summary are accomplished.
A prioritized list of five (5) communication channels you recommend be used to promote and support the initiatives and strategy.
For the Executive Summary she has requested, she wants all of the bulleted elements (from the list above) covered in a very concise, tidy arrangement that is divided into four (4) sections (compare to Rubric):
Company Performance Overview — think “State of the State,” that includes the solid financial data, analysis, and trends you researched, with explanations/observations.
Competitive Landscape Outlook — related to the financial data, includes the external factors, and your three (3) suggestions about where you might need to get more info internally.
Annual Strategy Outline — here you will list your four (4) high-level initiatives for the coming year, how they will advance the company and outpace the competition.
Communications Centrifuge — this is where you wrap it up by explaining how you intend to “brand” the initiatives for the coming year holistically (mission statement), what the ideal future will look like (outcome statement), and what five (5) communication channels you are recommending to promote and support the plan.
Keep in mind, the new COO is a straight-shooter who doesn’t like “fluff.” She wants what she wants. You know she’s going to carefully comb through your Executive Summary to ensure it includes all of these elements, and you can tell she has little patience for overdoing it. She values concision. If she says four (4) sections and no more than 1500 words, she is going to hold you to it!
Check out these resources from a Lynda.com module on “Thinking Like a Leader”:
Needs vs. wants
Products / services