S FOR SUCCESS
SEVEN STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL COMMUNICATIONS
We’d love to tell you there’s a secret to great internal communications. Because that would make what we do something delightfully mysterious and intriguing. But in all honesty, it’s simply not true. There are, however, some crucial steps you have to take to create a successful comms campaign. As luck would have it (and because no-one loves a gimmick more than a professional communicator), we call them our seven esses for successes.
You don’t have to call them that. It’s got a nice ring to it though.
This isn’t rocket science, folks. It just means thinking about what you want your comms to achieve, and how they are going to achieve it.
Let’s say you’re trying to create behavioural change. You want your people to observe a behavioural-based safety regime that will significantly reduce accident rates. So now we know what success looks like — lower accident stats. And we know how we want to achieve success — a change in behaviour.
The strategy is how you’ll achieve that success. It should consider things like potential obstacles, prevailing attitudes, communications systems and organisational hierarchy. Once you’ve got a handle on those things, you can think about the messages you need to get out, the audiences you need to reach and the ways you’re going to reach them.
So you’ve set a clear goal, established your route to it and created a comprehensive plan that will guide everything you do in order to get there.
Not all comms are created equal – and there’s a reason for that. What you want to say to your CEO won’t be the same as what you want to tell someone working on the shop floor, quite simply because they have entirely different interests from each other.
Imagine telling your average production line operative that better safety means bigger profits. Why should they care? But if you tell them that better safety means a successful business, which means secure jobs and better prospects for advancement, that shows the benefit — outside of leaving work as healthy as you were when you arrived — to them.
You also need to specify the channels you’ll use to reach your people. Office based might prefer emails, while site-based might prefer something they can access via their phones. The way you deliver messaging has an impact on how you develop it, so it’s important to bear that in mind.
Most internal communications are, by their nature, aligned to corporate goals. If they’re not, you’re not going to get the kind of results you’re hoping for — quite simply because you’re not going to get the top-level support you need to make them succeed.
Sticking with the safety theme, if your organisation or client hasn’t identified it as a strategic priority, how are you supposed to reach everyone you need to reach? So your first job is to bring the C-suite on board, to sell in the organisational benefits of better safety and secure their support for your campaign.
Once better safety is embedded as a corporate goal, you’ll have all the back up you need for the rest of your messaging.
When you’re putting your communications strategy into place, don’t forget to build in some kind of measurement system that allows you to track their effectiveness. That might mean setting some KPIs, or asking for then measuring direct engagement.
For example, maybe there’s a training module you want people to complete. Your measure of success will be the numbers of people who have completed it. Or perhaps you measure safety statistics on a regular basis. Those figures will show you what’s working and what isn’t.
If you’re just hurling messages into the void, you have no way of knowing if they’re reaching their intended audiences. If your measurement systems, whatever they are, show a less-than-positive result, you have the chance to regroup and tweak your strategy until you find what does work. And if your system is showing the results you want, you can simply enjoy the lovely warm feeling of a job well done.
Cut to the chase. Boil it down. Get to the jelly. The best communications don’t mess about with fancy words and get into excruciating levels of detail. Because no-one is willingly going to wade through paragraph after paragraph to get to the bit that applies to them. Tell people what’s in it for them and you’ve got their attention from the get go.
That usually means cutting back on the detail. And that’s OK – there are other ways to fill that in. But your comms campaign should be clear, simple and direct so that people understand what you’re trying to tell them and what you expect them to do as a result.
Think of it this way. Different people in your organisation will have different levels of literacy and language. You might have people who don’t speak English as a first language. You might have people with a basic level of literacy working beside someone with a PhD. The PhD will understand super simple, clear and specific English. So will everyone else.
Communicate at PhD level and you’re only reaching that person. It’s not about dumbing down. It’s about distilling what you’re trying to say into the absolute essence so it works equally well for everyone.
The way your messages are structured will determine how memorable and impactful they are. Think about it like a story – there’ll be a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning sets out the what and the when. Tell people what’s planned and when it’s planned for. Keep it short and simple, you’re only setting the scene. Remember, we need to cut to the chase.
The middle of your is the why — and you could argue that this is the most important part. Because this is where you tell people the benefit to them, for example: “We’re doing this because it will keep you all healthy and happy”. We can’t always be that positive. But if we find a way to explain the why it promotes understanding and encourages people to respond the way you’d like them to.
The end of your story part is the how. It’s where you set out the steps you’ll be taking as well as the expectations you have of the people you’re communicating with. That way everyone finishes your story with a clear idea of what will be happening, when it will be happening, why it’s happening and how they should behave as you make it happen.
We don’t mean sympathy in the back-patting, ‘there, there’ kind of way. We mean adopting an approach that’s sympathetic to your audience as people, not just as a workforce or a specific group. Talking to them, not at them. Working with them, not just telling them what to do.
We know that people are more productive in and more loyal to companies where they feel valued, where their ideas matter and they’re listened to. That’s why it’s important to create some kind of opportunity for them to feed into or feed back on your comms campaign. It helps them to feel involved.
If your comms campaign directly relates to their interests, you’re telling them that you care. If your messaging makes them feel like they have a role to play, you’re showing that their contributions are not only seen, but appreciated. If you create and deliver it in a way that’s easy for them to access and understand, you’re showing that it’s important to have their buy in.
Your role as an internal communicator isn’t to act as a mouthpiece for the people at the top of the ladder. It’s to provide a voice for everyone in your organisation. Maintaining a level of sympathy with your audiences — all your audiences — is going to make your job easier. That’s OK, you can thank us later.
8. SPEAK TO US!
We hope you’ve found some useful nuggets in here. And we’re always happy to chat through your internal communications conundrums or questions, so don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0141 212 2481, or drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org