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Perhaps the most frequent conversation I have with the folks I have mentored over recent years is, “If I could just get my leadership to understand what I’m doing…”  The implication here is that but for our leadership being better informed virtually all our problems would be solved.  Obviously, nothing is ever that black or white but clearly improving communications with your team, leadership, elected officials and the general public is always considered positive. There are several challenges to overcome on the road to improving your communications.  Here are eight you should consider:
  1. Success Formula – Successful communication is not just producing activity and results oriented reports. You can tell people what you are accomplishing but that is only half the formula for successful communications.  The other half must be a willingness on the part of the listener to truly hear and understand your messages.
  3. Target Your Audience – To boost communications, you must take into consideration how your audience processes information (Listens) We all process information a little differently and therefore you must craft messages in a variety of ways.  People typically are one or a combination of these styles:
    1. Visual Learners
    2. Big Picture Only
    3. Give All the Facts
    4. Use Lots of Supporting Data
    5. Speak Directly to Me
  1. Benefits of Communication – What are the direct benefits of keeping your leadership better informed?
    1. They gain insight into what you do, how you do it, and most importantly the impact your efforts are producing.
    2. You need your leadership to get engaged quickly when they begin to work with you and then stay engaged. Boosting the frequency of communications will keep them motivated to learn more about how economic development works and why it is so very important.
    3. Better informed leaders are hugely more likely to remain engaged for the long-term and in economic development you must have people who are active in your organization for years not months.
  1. Timeliness – Your day is packed full of meetings, calls and things on your “To Do List”. The biggest challenge to better communications is finding the time to create your messaging. Economic development is a very dynamic profession.  One in which things change on a daily basis. This makes it even harder to create meaningful messages for your leadership to follow.  The demand is for all messages to be available in ‘Real-time’ not on a weekly or monthly reporting cycle.
  1. Agreement on Delivery Channels – There are virtually endless ways to deliver content to your leadership. You and your team can use instant messaging, texting, emailing, website, blogs, newsletters, video calls, and on and on.  With so many methods to choose from you and your leadership should discuss which one or a combination of channels they want you to use.  Gaining their early buy-in and approval for choosing the channels they want you to use will hugely improve readership and correspondingly your success.
  1. Frequency of Messages – Preparing a reoccurring message whether it is weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually takes an enormous amount of time. This time could be better spent working on the goals of your organization and the urgent responses to projects.  Messaging your leadership on a fixed schedule can be the kiss of death for good communication. Typically, an organization can produce high quality content early in the sequence, say for the first six times or so. After that the content becomes boring and repetitive such that your leadership will stop reading and listening.  Regardless of the delivery channel used, reoccurring messages lose their potency very quickly.
  1. Methods of Messaging – The methods used in communication change rapidly as new technology comes to the market. Currently, the best way to communicate is to give the basic facts about your activities and recent results using colorful charts, graphs, and infographics. Using PowerPoint, Preze, or good old spreadsheets all have their place.  The key is not the method but rather it is the content.  Your leadership deserves the freshest information you can provide, when it happens, not on a schedule dictated by when you or your team have the time.
  1. Consequences of Not Communicating – Economic Development Organizations (EDO) that fail to keep their leadership (and sometimes the media) informed in real time will ultimately risk losing credibility.  When your EDO’s credibility comes into question, it is too late to change perceptions by all of a sudden boosting reporting.  Your personal credibility and that of your organization are the two most important things you have as an economic developer.  A poorly informed leadership makes it difficult or even impossible to demonstrate the huge value you and your organization provide.   Boost your reporting ASAP!
One Solution to this Communications Challenges. ProTRACKPlus was created to solve the problem of your leadership needing to be kept better informed and you not having the time to produce all the reports they want and need to see.  ProTRACKPlus has nine reports that are automatically kept up to date and can be exported for real time reporting with a few clicks.  The CRM also has a report generator which allows you to pull data from any field anytime and configure it in a spreadsheet type report.  This information can easily be sliced and diced to demonstrate your results. ProTRACKPlus is a cloud-based CRM tool that provides a perfect platform for Economic Development Organizations to track active projects, manage contacts, manage companies, and automate nearly all your reporting activities.  
Tim Mr. Chase is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, facilitator, and author on the topics of economic development metrics, community development, strategic planning, infrastructure, sales, and marketing. He acquired his Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation in 1994 and in May of 2001 Mr. Chase was named a Fellow Member (FM) of the IEDC for his work in the field of training and education related to economic development.  In October of 2019 Mr. Chase was designated as an Honorary Life Member (HLM), one of IEDC’s most prestigious awards.

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