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Comms and AI: Goldman Sachs Global Head of Corporate Comms on building stronger strategies
Nearly 50% of leaders say the top challenge they face in sharing essential communications — the updates that keep organizations aligned — is understanding what’s truly important to employees and stakeholders.
- Why it matters: It’s not just employee engagement and retention leaders put at risk when they can’t communicate objectives, updates, and directives effectively. It’s the entire organization that can end up misaligned — resulting in decreased productivity, poor company culture, and workplace errors.
“With respect to employee communications, it's hugely important right now that companies do a much better job,” Tony Fratto, Global Head of Corporate Communications at Goldman Sachs, said at a recent Axios HQ event. “There's no set it and forget it plan for communicating with employees because the world is changing and views change. Your job is never done.”
Level set your communication strategy
Good communication means setting expectations early on, showing you care about different perspectives, and building engagement between staff and leadership. Here are a few tips Tony shared for getting it right gleaned from his time at Goldman Sachs, the White House, the Treasury Department, and Penta Group:
- Segment your audience: “Communication strategy always starts with audience segmentation” — and that includes internal audiences too. Think about individual audiences and what they need to know when. Only when you deliver content they crave will you become their trusted, go-to source for info.
- Create in-person moments: To make online communications even better, block out time to meet face-to-face with those receiving your messages. Not only will doing so help you practice wording and see how messages come across, but it will “have a much bigger impact, and you'll be much more attuned to the way people think about things.”
- Be consistent: Sending mixed messages confuses audiences and makes you appear untrustworthy. “You should be saying the same things internally as externally. There aren't many things that you could say internally at Goldman that won't find their way to external audiences anyway.”
- Set expectations early: Despite having views on a wide variety of newsworthy topics, set guidelines of what you put resources into communicating and what you won’t. “If you set expectations very, very early, you put yourself in a much more forgivable position when events happen, and people know why you're choosing to say the things or not.”
“Make sure you're explaining to people who you are, what you're about, what your principles are, what you believe in, and where you're planning to go. Otherwise other people are gonna do it for us.”
Level up your communication with AI
“AI is…very powerful. It is creative,” Tony said. “At Goldman, we are looking at using the technology and doing lots of experimentation on it across the business.”
- Over 80% of leading businesses are investing in AI technologies this year because it can increase productivity and output, org-wide.
But while AI has the potential to help nearly any organization or process move faster, the lift you get out of it depends on the thought that goes into how you use it.
- Good tools: “ChatGPT is expensive. That creates competitive disadvantages for medium and smaller companies who are trying to access those tools and apply them to their work. Where they can find the opportunity to work with third parties is really smart.”
- Talent as the differentiator: It’s not about doing the same work with fewer people; it’s about doing even more quality work with the employees you have. “We feel strongly that as long as we continue to do the best in attracting talent, we're gonna be in a good place.” It all comes down to upskilling employees into creative prompt creators.
Generative AI can add immediate efficiency and longer-term benefits to your organization. Take the time now to put thought into how you — and your employees — can use it. Then have empathy for the time it will take everyone to learn and embrace it.
The bottom line: Revisiting your comms strategy is a never ending task that needs to be a continual focus as technology, the world, and your business change. But the more you prepare ahead of time, the better your position will be when new tech or challenges arise.
Go deeper: How to earn stakeholder buy-in when evolving your communication strategy
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