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Business lesson from HP history:

Communication Rules to Live By

Roy Verley was manager of HP Corporate Communications for nine years  -- communicating with employees, stockholders, reporters, and the community: "We simply told the truth."

"I've thought a lot about the many lessons I learned at HP and what universal truths I would cite today as fundamental to an effective communications program. Here's my short list:

1. Have a clear plan. Make sure it aligns with leadership's organizational priorities. Ask: What's the problem to solve? Why is that a barrier to organizational progress? How can communication help? But be quick to react when new issues or threats emerge that demand immediate response. Locking into a rigid plan without a daily reality check is as pointless as communicating with no plan at all.

2. Know your audience. Listen to them. Respect their intelligence and innate ability to separate fact from hype. What do you want them to think or do? What message can you convey to move your audience in that direction? What evidence can you present to make that message credible and compelling? Have this clearly in mind before thinking about strategy, tone and tactics.

3. Don't bury news and information under a pile of fluff. Present it the way you'd want to read or hear it – news first, fluff later.

4. When the news is bad, deal with it as quickly and completely as possible. Get it out, get it all out, and get back to work.

5. Admit and correct mistakes. Every organization makes them. Nobody benefits from leaving them on the record.

6. Don't hold bad news for dead news cycles or a “better time” when it might not get as much notice, such as Fridays at 5:00 p.m. That just undermines your integrity and increases the chances that the news will leak, putting you on the defensive.

7. Consider long-term reputation in all matters of communication. Err on the side of full and immediate disclosure, especially when public safety or welfare might be an issue. The respect and credibility you earn will serve you well when you need it the most….and you will need it! "

Roy Verley's full memoir 

(From the HPAA's collection of Timeless business lessons from HP history HP people talk frankly about what went right – and what went wrong – as this continuous startup grew rapidly for decades.)

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