Remember the 1990’s?  You know – when the height of technology meant you could download the new Bare Naked Ladies album from Napster with your cool, new dial-up internet connection… as long nothing else was open and the stars were perfectly aligned?

Fortunately, computers can handle a lot more data nowadays, but us humans haven’t evolved quite so quickly.  My rough estimate is that the average person’s capability to take in messages is about that of an old school floppy disk.

It’s our nature – we’re easily overwhelmed with data and messages.

That’s why it’s so important to keep your messaging consistent.

What’s the biggest road block to consistency in corporate communications?

From my observation, many companies and organizations have the most trouble with too many voices shouting too many different things.  Streamlining communications begins with streamlining communicators.

I work on the franchise team here at 919 Marketing, so I see this on a daily basis.

Each franchisee, much like departments within a large organizations, have their own opinions and want their voice to be heard.  Sometimes they create their websites, brochures and even ads.  They all think that their messages and priorities are the most important ones to get out.

While it’s often difficult and ill-received to limit the autonomy of those individuals in their communications efforts, you enter dangerous waters giving them all control.  Take it from someone who has experienced the aftermath of communications autonomy.

Before I joined 919 Marketing, I worked with a school system that must-not-be-named (yes, Harry Potter fans – that reference was for you).  The system was just beginning to implement a centralized communications plan when I arrived, and had just completed a communications investigation that found 14 different pamphlets and countless handouts developed by at least five departments, none of which shared a single consistent element of design or messaging.  It was total chaos, and it affected the operations of the entire system.

Don’t let communication chaos happen to you!

When you come up with your communications plan, include a set of communications guidelines that encompasses rules about who, within your organization, is allowed to publish information.

Who can distribute information?

Depending on the size and type of your organization, you may be able to limit your communicators to one department or team.  That would be ideal.  But, for many companies, there is good reason for other parties to have the authority produce their own content.  If that’s the case, you need to implement a system of checks and balances to make sure your message and brand aren’t getting muddied.

One possibility is to have a person in each department who is required to consult with the communications team throughout the process of creating published materials. Another is to require that all materials be approved by your communications team before being distributed.

Find something that works for your company.  Make sure the process you come up with is streamlined, reasonably easy to implement and results in consistent brand management across the board.

Our CEO, David Chapman, always reminds the us and our clients that we need “one version of the truth” replicated across all channels.  I think he says it best.  Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your message and confusing your audience.

Have any additional ideas about streamlining communicators or any fun horror stories?  I’d love to hear them!  Post ‘em in the comments.