The next time you create a communication plan, think about articulating your communication principles as part of the process. These are your beliefs about how communication should happen within your organization and they set the stage for the rest of the planning process. They shape your strategies and demonstrate your rationale for proposing certain tactics.

Your communication principles should be unique to your organization’s culture and values. There are no rules about how many you create; some companies articulate two or three general principles that guide all employee communication, while others develop 10 or more and tailor them each time they create a plan for a big initiative/event. Here are some sample communication principles:

  • “We tell the truth.”
  • “We communicate first to employees who are significantly affected by an event/change.”
  • “If we don’t know the whole story or can’t share it, we tell people what we can and let them know when they’ll hear more.”
  • “Dialogue is our first choice for communication.”

The best way to develop communication principles is to:

  • Do it collaboratively with your colleagues, to get everyone’s best thinking and perspective.
  • Test the principles with key constituents (like managers) who will be involved in carrying out your plan, to ensure their agreement and buy-in.
  • Develop principles early in your planning process, right after you frame big-picture objectives. That way, the principles will guide your strategies and tactics.

For example, let’s say your objective is to ensure all customer service reps are knowledgeable about your company’s full product line. Your key principle is “dialogue is our first choice for communication.” Your strategies and tactics will focus on face-to-face communication. You might choose classroom training sessions for customer service reps over computer-based learning or you’d encourage managers to review the product line with staff during meetings (providing an opportunity for questions and dialogue), rather than simply handing out memos or written summaries of products.

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