Internal communicators have a big role to play as our organisations start to find a way forward. We’ll be looking at a whole range of situations and emotions.
For some employees, returning to some form of in-person contact will be a joy. For others, there will be fear and uncertainty about what the ‘new normal’ will look and how it will affect their health. Sadly many internal communicators will be involved in communicating bad news, such as redundancies and closures.
You will be dealing with a mixture of communications needs, requiring a very nuanced approach to cover all scenarios. At a time when things are complex, it’s vital to get the basics right so you can focus on the trickier areas of detail.
Use this checklist of questions to make sure you don’t forget anything in your plans.
1. What is your organisation’s strategy now and in the uncertain future? This must be your starting point. You should aim to support understanding of the direction and context through your communications.
2. What do you want the outcome of your communication to be? You probably want your audience to think, feel or do something in response.
3. Who will be your audience(s)? Different groups will be at different points emotionally and have different needs, so remember to list them all. You may find that current circumstances mean you want to categorise audiences in new ways e.g. people with caring responsibilities or people at risk of redundancy.
4. What are their priorities at the current time?
5. What do they already know and/or understand? Although the pandemic is not something we have face before and the scale of the consequences is new, many people will have some experience of some situations e.g. roles at risk, the need to reassess projects. This will colour how they respond to your communications.
6. What has been their previous experience of your subject? Remember that their experience may be significantly different to yours. Positive, negative or indifferent – you are not starting from zero.
7. What does your audience want to hear about your organisation now and into the future?
8. What do you want to tell them? Not necessarily the same thing and you need to know if there’s a gap. For example, if they want reassurance that you can’t provide, you should be aware of and acknowledge their need so that they at least feel heard.
9. What information do they need and what’s ‘nice-to-know’? At the moment our brains are more overloaded than usual, so don’t overwhelm them.
10. What are your key dates? Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget to plan ahead and find yourself throwing together communications at the last minute.
11. What else is going on (within your organisation and/or in the external world) that could impact your communication? Communication never happens in a vacuum.
12. How can you get your message to your audience? There are a whole range of methods of communication and one size doesn’t fit all. Use the information you’ve already gathered to work out what is going to be most effective.
13. How do they already communicate? You are likely to have set up new channels during the early stages of the crisis – or started using existing ones in new ways – so think about what you have learned about what works and what doesn’t.
14. Who do they listen to? Influencers may not be the obvious candidates, so find out who they really listen to, not who you think they should listen to.
15. How will you ensure you hear and include their views? Two-way communication is important at the best of times and vital in uncertain, fast-changing times.
16. Whose voices are you listening to and including? Everyone should feel included. Everyone should be able to see their own experiences and needs represented in your communications.
17. How will you measure whether your communication is effective? It’s always good to have an idea of how you will do this before you have even started. Measure as you go along, so you can quickly adapt if necessary.
18. Are you achieving your outcome(s)? You can only answer this if you have a clear purpose and objectives from the start.
19. How flexible are your plans? Decisions, regulations and activities change quickly right now. Your plans will need to do the same.
20. What will you do (differently) next time?
When you’ve answered these questions, your overall plan will have more or less built itself. This will free you up to concentrate on the nuances, details and adaptations as you go.
Let me know how you get on and drop me a line if you would like any help.
Until next time