Communicate Like a Pro by Returning to the Basics
As leaders, we inherently know that effective communication is essential to our organization’s engagement. It is how we keep employees informed, inspire people to achieve our company’s mission and reinforce our organization’s culture. Easier said than done? You bet.
In a dream state, each of us would have our own on-call Communications Business Partner to plan and implement effective Internal Communications for us. With a few simple tips and tactics, you can communicate like a pro on your own – creating trust and engagement with your teams while ultimately improving business results.
Back to Basics
No matter what or how you are communicating, go back to the basics. If you studied journalism, Six Sigma, Kaizen in Lean, or have a passion for Rudyard Kipling’s poetry, then you know the 5W1H Method by heart. Starting with the Who/What/When/Where/Why/How sets the foundation of a successful communication.
WHO – who are you communicating to and who is the best communicator or communicators to deliver the message? Are you talking to your full team, only managers, individual meetings, the entire organization? Are you asking your managers to cascade the message? Tailoring your Communications to your intended audience ensures they strike the right tone. Be sure to prepare middle managers if they are expected to cascade the message throughout the organization. This is often a point where a breakdown occurs.
WHAT – what message do you want to communicate and what outcome do you want to produce? Remember that simplicity and clarity make for the best Communication. Avoid jargon and overly technical terms. Plain, clear language is appreciated by everyone.
WHEN – when is the best time to communicate? What else is planned that could enhance or detract from your message? Think about the right frequency for the Communication to be most effective and stick. Consistency is key!
WHERE – where will this communication take place? We’ve never had more options or channels for communications in the history of business. This is such an important consideration that we will cover it separately below.
WHY – the “why” is all too often missed, producing unintended consequences. People just want to know the rationale behind a decision, initiative or goal. Don’t leave them in the dark. Paint a vision to help them see where they are going and how they will get there. Even the most difficult Communications can go smoothly if you take the time to just explain the WHY.
HOW – just like a product launch, successful Communications need their own plan. It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, just use the questions above as your outline, add a timeline, and create some simple tools (like a key message document and Q&A to help those communicating) and voilà! You have a plan.
A Word of Caution on Communication Channels…
The pandemic forever changed how we communicate – for better and for worse. Horror stories of companies delivering life-changing news in virtual channels abound. Seriously consider the type of communication you are delivering to select the best channel or method. Should the message be delivered one-on-one, in a town hall, via email, through a video, or by cascade through managers? Debate this question and find the answer that’s right for your situation and your people. It could be various channels to help reach audiences in an office environment, in a manufacturing setting or working remotely.
Finally, don’t forget to listen to your people. Their feedback is critical to every single aspect of the 5W1H and creating engaging, effective Communications. After all, they are the culture of your organization!
Would you like your Internal Communications to be more effective, engaging and consistent? Lawless Strategic Communications advises on Internal and External Communications for companies of all sizes in Animal Health & Nutrition, Petcare and AgTech. Contact Julie Lawless at firstname.lastname@example.org.