I am often asked what I believe to be the most important elements underlying good communications plan. My strong belief is that there are a few elements that we must consider and factor into each plan we develop – and if they are, (regardless of any tactical problems you may encounter) you will emerge with a fairly positive end result.
I have outlined them below and urge you to keep them at the forefront of your mind, and at the heart of your plan as you proceed.
Listen before you communicate. Listen while you are communicating. And listen after you communicate. Through listening, you learn – and more importantly you communicate something to your audiences that is extremely important – RESPECT.
And don’t forget – the best way to show you listened is to take action on what you learned and report back.
Get focussed – say what you need to say, and let people know what is expected of them. Forget the corporate speak and jargon – use words and phrases that make sense and are easily understood. The greater the degree of clarity you can establish – with your messages and in your delivery, the greater degree of success you will encounter. If you fail here, your chance of achieving success is virtually zero.
Treat Employees as Adults
They deserve it, and they will be thrilled. Don’t hide the bad news – doing so only leads to mistrust, frustration and an extremely active rumor mill. Many years ago I worked with an organization that was preparing for a significant reorganization. It was late in the year and the CEO was adamant that nothing be told to employees because it was “too close to Christmas and I don’t want to ruin the holiday season for them”. What he failed to understand was that instead of only a few people who would be laid-off knowing what their fate would be, thousands began to speculate. The result of course was a rapid decline in productivity, ‘a ruined Christmas’ for many, many more and a significant decline in trust that continues to show its impact all these years later. Had employees been told exactly what was happening, the result would have been significantly better – both short and long-term.
When the morning paper serves as the company newsletter, you have failed. Go out of your way to get information to people in a timely manner, and they will go out of their way to help you through almost any situation. This is one of the biggest areas of frustration staff have and there is no reason for it to be that way. Make the commitment and make it happen. Nothing more needs to be said on this issue.
If you do your analysis work well, do your listening as you should, making your communication relevant to your audiences is easily accomplished. Missing the relevant issues and failing to make the connection between what you are communicating and the audience, will lead to failure.
Think Process – Not Event
Don’t forget that communication is a process and not an event. It has a starting point, an end point and a journey in between. And more often than not, route changes will be required. As you plan, think clearly about each stage of the process you need to work through – including ensuring staff have access to the information you are conveying, developing awareness, understanding, acceptance and getting a commitment to take action.
And lastly, use stories that are real. People “get” stories based on the experiences of others and relate to them far better than they can a traditional corporate type article.
Hope this helps…looking forward to seeing what others think