If you want to be a bad product manager, assume that once is enough to communicate anything important. If people attend a meeting or read their email, they should be paying attention to what is communicated and understand what it means to them. Why would you need to say anything more than once? If people hear it or read it and still don’t know, it’s their own fault for not paying enough attention.
If you want to be a good product manager, reinforce your communication though multiple avenues. Sure, it would be nice if you would only have to mention something once and have everyone in your organization understand, accept, and be able to re-communicate it. Unfortunately, that just is not possible.
As John Kotter writes in the classic Leading Change:
The most carefully crafted messages rarely sink deeply into the recipient’s consciousness after only one pronouncement. Our minds are too cluttered, and any communication has to fight hundreds of other ideas for attention. In addition, a single airing won’t address all the questions we have. As a result, effective information transferal almost always relies on repetition.
Inconsistent and infrequent communication leads to confusion and frustration. Product managers need to work with others within their company to prevent this from happening and deliver consistent messages in various formats.
Whether you are providing details about an enhancement in your next product release or a change in pricing strategy, you want to make sure that the important individuals within your organization receive and understand what is happening and what it means to them. As a product manager, this means communicating this important information clearly, consistently, and often through multiple channels. Some people learn better when they read it, others when they hear it, and others when they see it. Most need to hear it multiple times through multiple channels in order to really process the details and understand what it means to them.
Even simple changes or details can be easily misconstrued or misinterpreted. It is not enough to just provide the information; product managers need to provide additional resources to ensure that the message sticks. Follow up an email to your sales force with additional documentation to which they can refer later. Deliver a presentation to your support staff, then make sure to post the slides on your intranet. This technique should be applied when communicating externally as well — follow up a press release with a blog update, a webinar, and direct communication to your key customers.
While this sounds like a basic suggestion, it is so often overlooked and can nearly always be improved. Think about how you receive information from others within your organization. Do you always learn all of the details which you need to know from HR? Do you receive information from Finance in a timely fashion? Do you hear things through “official” channels or through hallway conversations? How an organization communicates information about its products is often related to how it communicates in general. If an organization has good communication and information dissemination practices in place, it is easy for a product manager to follow those when providing product information. If the organization has other communication issues (and most do), a product manager will need to work even harder to combat those ingrained tendencies.