What is “Communications Choreography?”

And why did I include this term on my new business cards?


n. pl. cho·re·og·ra·phies

1. a. The art of creating and arranging dances or ballets.b. A work created by this art. 2. Something, such as a series of planned situations, likened to dance arrangements.

Are we all on the same page?

Are we all singing out of the same hymnal?

Do we have all of our (Oregon) ducks in a row?

Insert your favorite organizational metaphor here:___________.

My new business cards just arrived. They introduce Kevin M. Brett, Communications Choreography.

More than one person has asked me what is, “Communications Choreography?” Is it similar to the producer or director of A Chorus Line? Yes, there are many more similarities than differences.


On Broadway, there are dancers and dances. There are musicians and music. There are singers and songs. They have to be on pitch, in time and the performers need to be where they are supposed to be at exactly the right time…easier said than done.

In football, there is the down, distance, score and time in the game. The ball is spotted. The play clock is running. The play comes down from the offensive coordinator. The play is signaled in from the sideline to the offense. The quarterback comes up to the line and notices the annoying “Mike” linebacker is lined up in the “A” gap.

Time to call an audible at the line of scrimmage as the play clock runs down. The play has changed. The ball is snapped. The guards pull. The tight end and wide receivers throw blocks on their way down the field. The quarterback reads the defensive end, fakes the handoff to the dive back, who plunges into the line drawing faked out defenders. The quarterback pitches the ball to the H-back…


These two descriptions, A Chorus Line and read-option college football, are the essence of choreography. Now let’s extend this definition to communications.

In communications, it is more than speaking with one voice, although that element is crucial. The first step in communications choreography is always the message. What exactly does your organization want to communicate? Who is the target audience or in many cases, who are the target audiences? Do they all see the world in exactly the same way? In most cases, the answer is a big, fat “no.”

The message must always be truthful, or as Henry Kissinger once said about a given statement, “It has the added advantage of being the truth.”

Who is going to tell this message and to whom? Who are your best messengers and are they ready to deliver the message? Do they need to be trained for the television interview, for the news conference, for the briefing, or how to present at a financial conference?  Do they understand the technique of acknowledging the question and bridging to the answer, which reflects the pre-ordained message?

And what will be the methods of relaying this message? Will the communications choreography program dictate the use conventional means, such as town hall meetings, small group briefings, one-on-one sessions, communicating through newspapers, radio or television? Or will the communication be digital? What role should there be for blogging, social media sites and webcasting just to name a few? Those who thought that social media was a fad better get out-of-the-way of next month’s expected Facebook IPO.

Communications choreography requires skillful planning. When will the message go out? Once we know the given date or even hour (e.g., close of market), then it is time to start marching…backward.  That’s right, you need to build your timeline back to the present and work your way to the future…if you follow me.

Is it good news? A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Is it bad news, then let’s plan for Friday right before the weekend…even better if it is a holiday weekend.

Is it “material” under the dictates of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) of the Securities Exchange Commission? If you are planning communications choreography for a publicly traded company, then you have absolutely no choice but to disclose this information once it becomes available…usually right after the close of market or before it opens in the morning…giving investors time to digest the news. To do otherwise runs the risk of selective disclosure of material information or withholding this information from investors, thus inviting a nasty SEC proceeding.

If you are planning a major financial conference that includes a game-changing product launch, then corporate public relations (e.g. “The Forest”), marketing communications (e.g. “The Trees”) and investor relations (e.g. “The Investors”) all have to be on the same page. The “Forest” refers to the company as a whole including the most valuable asset, the employees. The “Trees” refer to the individual products that serve as the revenue stream of the company. All three disciplines need to be in alignment and must follow the predetermined time table…beginning with the news release crossing the wires.

When choreographing a communications campaign, there are many questions that need to be asked and answered. Experience and instinct play a huge role in successful communications choreography. A campaign must reflect not only the culture of an organization, but its look and feel as well. Communications choreography must be consistent with the brand.

If you always think of communications in the same way as a choreographer sees a Broadway dance troop, then there is no excuse for not having your message, messenger and campaign in perfect three-step harmony.