Building relationships is key in communication leadership

By Lisa Webb

Lanette Hart (photo by Andy and Malinda Rawls)

During the second day of the 2018 Religion Communicators Council Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Lanette Hart, APR, CPRC, founder and principal consultant of Hart & Associates in Jacksonville, Florida, presented the workshop “Leadership Communication in Changing Times.” This session combined practical advice on developing communication strategies and leadership skills and offered insights on preparing for change and embracing the challenge of helping others to understand the nature of change when it arises.

Speaking to a room of communicators from a variety of organizations, including faith communities, schools and publications, Hart drew on her experience as a public relations professional as she discussed the role of relationship building in managing change and inspiring others to deal with change in a positive way.

Hart stressed the importance of having credibility and confidence inside and outside of an organization when there is change, and provided guidance on identifying key audiences, including the organization’s employees, who can become the best brand ambassadors. She also defined an organization’s reputation as, “What do we know? What are they saying? What is their attitude?” Answering these questions better equips communicators to inform, involve and inspire others when managing change.

The evolution of corporate communications from an institutional model to a more human-based one was also explored. In this model, relationships, listening, responding, and authenticity is the preferred way to connect with both internal and external audiences. Some examples of creating more simple and clear communications included using concise, conversational writing, more graphics, videos and white space. In social media, finding ways to help the customer be the hero of the story can help make connections on a more personal level.

She offered this advice:

  • Be there for the audience, be visible and build partnerships so that relationships are in place before a crisis or change arises.

  • Be authentic and human when communicating.

In addition to guidance with identifying key audiences, creating communication strategies and producing succinct communications, Hart also presented helpful leadership tips for speaking, consulting, and advising effectively. She introduced “One New Thing” as well, a personal action plan to identify and implement one practical take-away from the workshop. The session ended with a question-and-answer period that focused on social media.

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