5 tips to communicate dry subjects

browningyork Charity, Communication lessons, Organisational culture, Planning, University

A pink post-it with the words practical tips written on itToday I am blogging about something that we know we will need to communicate about in 2021 and beyond – dry subjects. Topics such as procurement, data compliance and health and safety.

(I say this with love; I have worked with enough procurement teams over the years to believe that you are a truly misunderstood group.)

My recent blog posing the idea that a high-level communication strategy framework might be more useful in late 2020 than detailed comms plans seemed to strike a chord. With everything changing quickly and uncertainty about what will come next, many topics are difficult to pin down.

So now could be the perfect time to think about what you will need to communicate next year.

Efficiency and value for money
As mentioned above, I do a lot of work with procurement teams, helping them find ways to engage their internal audiences with the need for compliant action. The teams are lovely, hard-working experts in their field who are striving to do their best for their organisation every day. B – but by their own admission, their subject matter is rarely at the top of anyone’s must read list.

And yet, the increased efficiency, value for money, improved customer service and out and out cost savings that their work delivers can make a huge difference to the whole institution’s success. Or, in the context of 2020, to the organisation’s survival.

Funding the frontline
The need for more efficient purchasing in organisations from the public, voluntary and private sectors comes up increasingly in the news. Now more than ever, budgets need to be spent in a coherent, joined up way that saves money, avoids waste and allows more funding to be directed to frontline causes.

This is a big deal and applies to any large organisation. Yet, getting people to take notice within the organisation – and, more to the point, getting them to change their behaviours – is tough.

A range of dry subjects
Procurement isn’t the only area within an organisation that suffers in this way. Health and Safety is another one.

A few years ago I came across an award-winning H&S video for Tesco staff, which featured the intrepid cartoon character, Kill Spill. Tesco realised that they needed to do something about the huge number of accidents in their stores caused by people slipping or tripping. They created a video to get 5 key points across to staff in a quick, humorous and memorable way. And it worked.

Watch the video and you’ll never look at the humble grape in the same way again!

GDPR and other areas of regulatory compliance are further examples of subjects that few people are raring to discuss, but are key to success.

Current context
We have to get communication about these areas – and resulting behaviour change – right. Paradoxically, the uncertainty of the global pandemic and the subsequent fallout, as well as the looming reality of Brexit, may provide the context that communicators need to raise the profeile of these subjects.

I believe that the organisations and institutions which survive our current global difficulties will be the ones that think creatively. They will assess all their activities against criteria which deliver genuine added value in difficult times. Purchasing goods and services compliantly and sustainably may not seem like exciting innovation, but for many organisations it will mark a level of change.

5 tips for dry subjects
My lovely procurement teams and I haven’t totally solved this tricky conundrum yet, but we’re working on it. Here are a few pointers if you’re facing a similar challenge:

  • Identify the business need or problem that the dry subject solves. How will it increase funding or enable new activities, for example.
  • Communicate that business need in a way that everyone can relate to – give them a reason to care. How will doing the right thing make a difference to their priorities?
  • Identify a few key messages that everyone needs to know and articulate them as simply as possible. These subjects can often seem complicated to non-experts, so break them down into simpler steps. Avoid overwhelming people with too much information at once.
  • Use colour, stories and human interest to make the content come to life. Kill Spill was a great example of using humour and stories to convey important information.
  • Look for opportunities to link your communications to other business areas that traditionally generate more interest.

  • Have you had success communicating dry subjects? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear all about it.

    If you’ve got a dry subject you’d like help to communicate, get in touch for a chat.

    Until next time
    Sarah