Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
You’ve been given the job of communicating a major change, and your boss has suggested producing a newsletter. So what do you do next? Leapfrog’s advice?...........................
First of all, consider Why you are communicating. What’s the need for the work you’ve been asked to do? Write down a few paragraphs of background to articulate this need and to provide the communication context.
Okay, you’ve got a general need, and the next thing to consider is who you are communicating with. Who are your stakeholders – and what’s the impact of what you want to say going to be on them?
Right from the start it’s important to realise that communication is successful only if it creates the right impact on your audiences, prompting them into the action you want them to take.
And what are those actions? Well, they’ll be based on your objectives. What do you want to achieve as a specific result of this communication?
Again, write them down – and try to limit them to three or four things that are achievable – world peace is a bit ambitious for the average communication campaign. The key is to link them directly to your organisation’s stated business objectives.
Objectives lead directly into success factors. What will success look and feel like if you get this communication right? To drag communication kicking and screaming away from accusations of being nebulous and distant from the business perspective, these factors much be quantifiable – and thus measurable.
So we know who we’re talking to and why – and what it will look and feel like if our communication is a success. Now it’s time to look at what needs to be communicated – your key messages. Step into your audiences’ shoes to focus on what they need to know – not necessarily what your boss wants to say - to achieve your objectives.
Look at prioritisation so that you focus your maximum effort on winning the awareness, understanding, buy-in and commitment from your prime influencers. Don’t waste your time on those who are easy to reach but do little to forward your cause.
It’s only at this point that you consider how you might reach your audience. Make sure you’re aware of their preferences for receiving information and how they choose to share it.
Look at what already exists within your organisation and look for opportunities to tie into existing channels and mechanisms and share the load with other communication colleagues.
Normally at Leapfrog, we draw up a matrix with you at this stage, mapping kinds of messages against potential mechanisms to draw out what’s most effective for each.
You never know, the answer may even include a newsletter – though this is most likely to be a supporting rather than a primary communication tool.
The bottom line is that your communication will be far more effective if you’re prepared to invest time in planning it properly first. Then it’s a case of learning from what you do, and applying what you’ve learned next time round to ensure you get ever closer to your audiences’ needs – while directly supporting your business’ strategy.
I’ve recently had experiences of a French technical director presenting to a European-wide audience of non technical specialists. After reading his 58 hugely detailed slides to his audience, he asked for questions, and was surprised when there were none. I wasn’t, since most of the few brave souls who’d lasted the presentation were asleep.
But his mis-reading of the situation was knocked into a cocked hat a couple of weeks ago, when at a strategic conference for one of my clients, dominated by sober financial presentations to a sombre audience of senior financiers, one chap opened his presentation with a download of David Brent’s dance from BBC’s The Office. Wrong time, wrong audience, an uncomfortable silence followed by a speaker totally thrown off his presentation’s course.
I was asked to pitch for some work from a manufacturing organisation a little while ago. They showed me their current communication tools – mainly highly detailed technical and financial ‘memos’ that were posted on notice boards around the location, plus a quarterly magazine.
As part of Leapfrog’s background research, I talked to the on-site shop manager about what papers he sold each day. Over a week, it averaged out at 24 copies of the Mirror, 17 of The Sun, 19 of the Daily Mail, 11 of the Express nine of The Star, three Daily Telegraphs, two Guardians and a single Independent.
The sales gave a fair indication that the workforce chose to get their news from tabloid red tops, yet the company insisted on presenting its information as if it was straight from the pink pages of the financial broadsheets.
While the intent of the management team was to be open and honest in their dealings with workers at all levels, they adopted a single approach where the ‘one size’ that had to ‘fit all’, was fit for the board room, but lost its fitness for purpose when the message moved beyond the plush carpet of the executive corridor.
I presented this view back to the board. Its members listened intently, nodded sagely and then gave the work to a marketing copywriter with the brief to make the next raft of memos more ‘human’.
I wonder if there will be any humans left on the receiving end soon to hear the messages that the company – now subject to a hostile takeover – is pumping out.
Putting yourself in your audience’s shoes is essential as a communicator if you want to win them over or carry them with you. This can be a minefield if you’re working with internal audiences, especially when the messages you’re managing will almost certainly have an impact outside your organisation. But there are a few simple rules to remember:
- One size fits all doesn’t work
- Pitch your communication at the receiver – it’s not about satisfying your boss, or making someone up the chain look good
- Know your audiences and the style and tone of communication that works with them
Make the communication relevant to their needs
- Involve line management – most people want to hear important business news from their manager, and share it with their peers
- Create feedback opportunities – and complete the loop by answering questions – and publicising the fact that they have been answered and that issues have been acted on.
The upshot of those bullets is that there’s more work involved than meets the eye in getting a message through to your workforce – especially when you may be obsessed for the need of managing corporate reputation and ensuring shareholder needs are met. In satisfying the latter, you can damage the former, and what grates most is that awful dichotomy when you’re telling the investors and analysts that all’s well, while lining employees up for their redundancy notices.
There’s no easy way round hard messages – but getting the style and tone right, as well as the content, can reduce the backlash and even enhance your organisation’s reputation.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I've just received the Connections magazine - I love it! Thank you for featuring us and for doing such a wonderful job on it - looks great! Hopefully lots of employers will call us as a result!
Mark - thanks for making me sound intelligent!!!!!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
- How IC adds value in tough times
- Assessing what the IC team does - and the value it brings the organisation
- Maintaining your employer brand
- Dealing with difficult situations - closures, redundancies, mergers etc.
- Focusing on those left after redundancies etc.
- Planning for the upturn.
Three things really jump out at me on this. First, the need to bring internal and external communication together so that all communicators have a complete picture of what needs to be done and can plan to address the needs of each stakeholder group in full knowledge of the impact on others. Second, the vital need to maintain the Employer Brand - it's far too easy to sacrifice all that's good and distinctive about an organisation when the going gets tough. Finally, my experience is that we're too quick to focus all our efforts on the people losing their jobs, and neglect the huge impact job losses, changing roles and reorganised departments have on those left to soldier on. Very quickly in the change process these people have to become the focus for our support and efforts - whether we're line managers, business leaders or communicators.
Overall, my view is that communicators have to be far more proactive both in counselling leadership and in understanding and militating the front line issues organisations face at present. Cath's plea for 'relentless' communication' shouldn't mean a raft of new media or costly events - or even wheeling out the big leadership guns without purpose. It's much more about being open, honest and doing a few things really well.
Find the communication channels that people see as credible - often face to face with direct line management - and give those directly involved the tools and skills they need to make such channels work.
I'll post details of the training package shortly.