Most groups want to be strategic, but we often make assumptions about what that might look like. I addressed the topic of strategic communications at a high level in one of my recent posts.
This time, I want to be more specific about the tactics of strategy. What can employee communications specifically do to be more strategic, support change and help drive better business outcomes?
- Provide and regularly update an annual communication plan. This plan should map major company initiatives annually on a single page (see sample image below). Plotting initiatives can focus leader conversations on ways to combine the messaging and delivery of key efforts. When you see too many rectangles overlapping in a month, it may be time to ask whether you can combine them or adjust the timing. (Note: In order to abstract things to fit on one page, you must include only items that will introduce significant change or require significant enterprise resources. I also have templates for the next level of detail. Contact me if you’re interested in learning more.)
- Consolidate communication channels. One-off emails make initiatives feel like random activity … no one is managing the flow of information. It also contributes to higher volumes of email, which often overwhelms employees. Strategic communicators present information in a summary digest format so that managers and employees can see at a glance what is coming. Getting stakeholders to use this more disciplined approach also encourages broader awareness of how much information is landing on employees during any given week.
- Establish grand-narrative messaging. Narratives are incredibly important for two practical reasons: (1) People do a better job of retaining information presented as narratives, and (2) Stories can effortlessly convey constructive emotions. If you have three change initiatives planned in the next three months, your positioning can make the difference between employees perceiving that as three random and potentially arbitrary eruptions, or seeing them as a single change that will lead incrementally to inspiring outcomes.
While these tips are not specific to change communications, they establish a framework that is more likely to make change efforts successful. If you are interested in learning more about change that sticks, register for the IABC Heritage Region Annual Conference in October and attend my presentation with Megan Hogan on Behavior Change that Sticks.