Communicators: Stop delivering news, start changing behavior

Tired of writing stories no one reads? Here’s a three-step process that delivers messages employees want to hear.

May I rant for a moment?

Right this minute, all over the world, communicators are knocking themselves out to deliver organizational news that nobody wants or needs.

We’re exhausting our resources—not the least of which include our own time and our audience members’ attention—making sure people know who won the corporate billiards tournament, how many tons of concrete went into the new headquarters building, and how thrilled we are to support the ballet’s spring season.

We’re doing battle with approvers over whether to use “that” or “which” in the fourth paragraph of news stories that nobody reads. We’re struggling to help content experts trim their 6,000-word essays on the award that engineering won to the 30 words it actually deserves. And we’re smothering our readers with inconsequential “blah-blah” when it doesn’t even serve the organization.

The worst of it is: This is not our job.

Start doing your real job

Our job isn’t to deliver news. Our job is to communicate information that helps our organization meet its bottom line business goals.

That means using a communication process to identify those goals, then developing communication tactics—including editorial—to help us get there.

In marketing communications, that’s fairly easy: Just give targets entertaining information they can use to live their lives better that also promotes our products, programs, plans and positions. (I know: just.)

In employee communications, though, it’s tougher.

Develop stories that change employee behavior

One way to develop editorial concepts that help change employee behavior is a three-step process I used when I was at Hallmark:

1. Identify corporate goals.

To rip a list from a favorite client, those might include:

  • Focus on growth products
  • Innovate in growth markets
  • Pursue flawless execution

These are your messages for the whole year. Yup, you’re going to repeat the same three to five messages over and over for a year.

2. Develop stories to illustrate your corporate goals.

Bring these abstract, high-level messages down to earth with stories of individuals and teams who are helping the organization achieve its goals.

3. Allocate about 10 percent of your coverage to news.

Of course you’ll still cover news, it just won’t make up the bulk of your work.

Why use the strategic editorial approach?

What happens when you scrap the news service approach? You can:

  • Complete fewer projects, but with higher quality
  • Become a writer instead of a content manager
  • Work on a business schedule, not on a newsroom schedule
  • Serve the organization instead of feeding the beast

Plus, by communicating messages instead of reporting news, you can have more fun and stop irritating your readers.

Isn’t it time to close down the news bureau today?

Ann Wylie is president of Wylie Communications, Inc., a writing, training and consulting firm. She is also the author of, and Wylie’s Writing Tips.

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