We must factor certain key elements into each communication plan we develop. Keep them at the forefront of your mind and at the heart of your plan as you proceed:
Listen before you communicate, while you are communicating, after you communicate. Through listening, you learn—and, more important, you convey respect for your audience.
The best way to show you’ve listened is to act on what you learned and report back.
Get focused. Say what you need to say, and let people know what is expected of them. Ditch the corporate-speak and jargon; use words and phrases that make sense and are easily understood. The greater the clarity—in your messages and in your delivery—the greater success you will achieve. If you fail here, your chance of success is virtually zero.
Treat employees like 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, and a significant decline in trust that persists 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. Make the commitment, and make it happen.
If you analyze well and listen as you should, delivering relevant information to your audiences should be easy. Missing relevant issues and not connecting your message to the audience will lead to failure.
Think process, not event
Communication has a starting point, an end point, and a journey in between. More often than not, route changes will be required. As you plan, think clearly about each stage of the your process-ensuring that staff have access to the information you are conveying; developing awareness, understanding, and acceptance; and getting a commitment to take action.
People relate to the experiences of real people far better than they do to a corporate-type article.
A version of this article first appeared on KenMilloy.com.