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Business Communication Protocol

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In order to achieve business goals and maintain profitability, companies rely on effective business communication protocol.  Interviews, board room meetings, and informal discussions are samples of opportunities to communicate business objectives within an organization. 

Protocol Purpose

Establishing a communication protocol incorporates two key factors: the promotion of a meaningful exchange of information and the building of relationships with partners and key stakeholders. Business communication protocol is not only a set of professional rules, but also a code of conduct used to guide business-related behaviors and etiquette.

Verbal Communication Etiquette

Verbal business communication can take place in hallway conversations, shareholder meetings, ceremonial events, interviews, workshops, press conferences, phone calls and even web videos.  Verbal comments that are appropriate in hallway conversations may not be appropriate in a board meeting.  For example, personal statements about family and hobbies may be acceptable during a lunch meeting with a co-worker, and can build authentic and productive networks.  However, sharing intimate stories during a press conference can usurp the authority of the spokesperson delegate.

Written Communication Etiquette

Written communication can include formal newsletters, reports and informal memos that require appropriate etiquette in business settings.  Etiquette in business communication can vary in structure depending on the audience size, culture, place and purpose.  Written messages should follow the same ideals as verbal communication etiquette; each message should be edited to fit the tone of the audience receiving it.

Verbal Communication Guidelines

Informal verbal communication in business settings can supplement official channels, save time spent on projects and increase productivity.  Formal communication delivered as a presentation can reinforce the ethics and culture of an organization. As a chief officer, manager or a field representative, verbal communication in informal and formal settings should include the following guidelines.

First, is the language considerate and courteous? Kindness trumps bluntness, even during disagreements.

Second, does the conversation reflect company values?  Even if personal views are not 100 percent in alignment with company directives, an employee should always support the corporate mission.

Next, does the discussion reflect positive characteristics about employee attitudes or the corporate culture? Eliminate gossip and minimize negative comments about company policies.

Finally, will the message incorporate a beneficial truth?  Confidential information, while true, may not be appropriate for everyone in the organization. 

Written Communication Guidelines

Written communication is generally used to inform, collaborate or persuade.  Before drafting any piece of literary collateral, one of these general uses should be identified. Once the purpose is established, the following guidelines can be used for an effective business communication protocol.

First, are all of the contents incorporated into one main idea?  Multiple topics in one document can confuse the reader.  Separate unrelated subjects into different documents. 

Second, is the language clear, familiar and free of slang? Never assume the reader understands industry jargon.

Next, is the message brief, engaging and properly formatted? The appearance should always be professional, but should be easy for anyone to read.

Finally, are necessary facts and details presented? Don't leave out information that can leave the reader confused.

  • "Excellence in Business Communication;" John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovee; 1991
  • "Internal Communication: The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication;" Brad Whitworth; 2006

Since 1999, Christina Callaway has written and developed marketing communications programs for a range of small businesses, start-up ventures and Fortune 500 companies. She is also a speaker and trainer specializing in integrated communications.

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