For most of us, the ever-changing communications landscape – indeed, the shifting make-up of the world itself – makes it tough to keep up. So every year we resolve a little more firmly to deliver the leadership communications solutions that bring us a little closer and a little more connected to those who are most important – our customers, our supporters, our funders, and our family, friends, and professional associates.

Here’s our wish list for the New Year’s resolutions of 2014:

Talk Less. Listen More.
Communication is about sharing and exchanging ideas, information, inspiration and experience. Take the time to listen to your colleagues, customers, friends and family. The most exceptional conversationalists listen carefully, focusing their full attention on the other speaker, instead of waiting for the other person to finish so they can say something. There is a great deal of truth to the adage, “speech is silver, and silence is golden.”

Respond. Fast.
When your customers, clients, or supporters reach out to you, offer a response. You may not have the answer right away, and it’s OK to say that. What’s not OK is to go “silent running” with calls or emails piling up in your outbox. What’s even worse is to hope the bad news or unanswered appeal will go away. It won’t. Your most critical audiences can forgive an honest mistake or uninvited crisis. But they’ll find it almost impossible to forgive you for dragging your feet on delivering the bad news or helping them solve a problem. (Did you catch that, Target?)

And let’s all try to do a better job of closing the loop. Received the email? Hit reply, so the sender knows you’re at least thinking about a response. A simple “Got it” is good. A “Got it; will get back to you shortly” is better. And offering a specific timeline for that answer is even better.

Make amends. Quickly.
Going hand in hand with the quick response is the even quicker, “I’m sorry; I want to help fix this.” Few of us have the power or the means to make bad stuff go away. In most cases, it would take a magic wand to make everything all better. But your audiences can’t read your good intentions unless you communicate them. Offer regrets for inconveniences (or worse) right up front. Explain what your stakeholders can expect – even if it’s just a promise to get back to them. Then deliver on that promise. Soon. Keep your audience in the loop. And above all, move quickly to right the ship before your entire enterprise, like the Titanic, is sunk with one blow.

Pick a platform, and do it right.
Social media dragging you down? Maybe you’re trying to do too much with too little foundation. Many of our clients want to jump right into picking the vehicles for their message, even before that message is firmed up. Make sure you know what you want to say, then identify your most critical audiences. Only then can you pick the best platform(s), online or otherwise, to reach those audiences and deliver the biggest bang for your communications buck (and by “buck,” we also mean all that time and talent you dedicate to communicating your value.

Make a strategic communications plan.
Which brings us to planning your year. You can’t effectively budget your time, talent, energy, and financial resources to reach customers, clients, or supporters without a plan. Just as most of us need a GPS to find an unfamiliar address, so, too, in the ever shifting global communications landscape do we need a roadmap to navigate change, deliver messages, and move our audiences to do something that favors us. The plan will involve defining your message(s), crystallizing your understanding of priority audiences, and finally, determining the vehicles that will not just deliver those messages, but generate meaningful results. The work you put in at the beginning will bring greater success at the close of this brand new year.

Wishing you leadership communications success to manage change in 2014!