Creating a Great Change Communications Strategy
Research and statistics show that communications strategy and planning is still an area that many organisations can make big improvements in. In fact, a 2018 research study and report by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co states that 60% of companies don’t have a long-term communication strategy!
You’d be right to feel concerned about this statistic. With increased levels of disruption and change affecting organisations, it’s inevitable that this will filter down and impact the people within. And, without a nimble and robust communications strategy in place (alongside your other integrated business change functions) it’ll be extremely difficult to effectively navigate the workforce through the challenges and opportunities that this changing business landscape poses.
That said, we understand that starting your communications strategy can be extremely daunting. So, if you’re about to start yours, take a look at Tom’s blog below and his five top considerations for creating a comms strategy from scratch.
Come on, be honest, how many times have you googled ‘How to write a communications strategy’? I admit I have done so in the past, more than once.
Looking back, it’s understandable: your communications strategy represents an expedition. It maps what you want, how you plan to get it and all that might affect the journey. The strategy covers everything and yet to be useful, it must be utterly concise.
So to reduce people’s future googling, here are five things to consider when writing a strategy for communications to support people change.
1. Explore like a journalist
Any successful communications strategy will have people at its heart. You need to understand your audience: their environment and attitudes. A formal approach will include a full situation analysis. At a pinch, gather statistical and anecdotal evidence to understand your client organisation, its history, culture and the people.
Clearly, the more you know about the population you seek to change, the more accurately you can set your strategic objectives and meet them.
2. Your communications strategy should tie your goal to corporate objectives
Your strategy won’t be supported by business leadership unless it’s linked to what the organisation is trying to do. Make this connection obvious when you define the strategy’s purpose. For example, “This is a strategy to have people adopt automated HR by 2018, in order to meet our ops efficiency vision.”
And if you can do this using an engaging visual diagram, then even better.
3. Know exactly what you want people to do differently
Clarify what you want people to think, feel and do as a result of the change, and keep checking the strategic activities against that. Too often, things drift from these goals, especially when working with limited resources.
For example, an oil and gas client wanted to get better cohesion from one of their fastest growing business units. The strategy included an approach to run project meetings more effectively. They wanted people to stay focused on milestones. However the individuals involved traditionally used their face to face meetings for getting issues off their chest. It became obvious that for behavioural change, the client would need to either create additional opportunities to vent, or extend the standard meeting agenda to include it!
4. Build messaging around audience types to support your communications strategy
Develop a tight message framework around audience segments. People find it much easier to keep sight of their plans when they can picture the broad groups they’re aiming at.
For manageability, we’d recommend consolidating to five segments or fewer and creating generalised ‘personas’ to help bring these audience types to life. For example, imagine Trevor, the warehouse manager, who acts on instinct and no longer trusts automated systems (because he’s seen enough come and go). How will he respond to a request to join online training for a new warehouse management system? Again, your strategy is at its most reliable when it’s designed closely around people and their attitudes.
5. Measure and be nimble
More than just tracking progress, measurement is about being ready to respond to performance indicators. That way, you can show audiences that you’re listening as well as taking action to keep the strategy on track.
This means including qualitative feedback along with your metrics. For instance, set up a monthly panel to get ‘word on the street’ feedback as you go.
Then make sure that there is enough flexibility to answer this feedback with alternative activities. This gives room for a level of two way interaction with audiences, which keeps communications and change activities feeling fresh.
With these broad points in mind, it should be easier to draft a communications strategy that is focused enough to resonate with audiences, but avoids getting stuck in the detail. Remember, your strategy should engage your audience and resonate personally to increase the success of change adoption.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this outline – is there a sixth point we should cover though? Let us know in the comments below.
At Afiniti, we regularly work with clients to, amongst other things, develop sustainable, robust and flexible communications strategies to help them achieve their business change goals. If this is a topic you’ve been thinking about recently and you’d like some advice, or have any questions, get in touch, we’d be very happy to talk!