How flexible is your communications menu?

Sometimes the policies, offerings and ways of doing business you are used to can blind you to new opportunities.

I love Mexican food. Especially with jalapeños. Lots of jalapeños.

In truth, I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who wouldn’t like to gluttonously drown themselves in cheese dip. But there are a few. And one of them is my friend, an amazing marketing expert named Barbara Price.

Many years ago, Barbara treated readers to a wonderful story on her blog called “Every Cheeseburger Begins Life as a Hamburger,” which recaps Barb’s non-Mexican-loving taste buds’ journey with friends to a local Mexican restaurant.

Barb ordered a hamburger, but they wouldn’t give one to her because there were only cheeseburgers on the menu. Barb’s retort? “Every cheeseburger begins life as a hamburger.”

Her blog used this story to make an incredibly important point: Sometimes what we have written down – our policies, our offerings, our way of doing business – blinds us to opportunity.

That story stuck with me. I’ve thought about it over and over related to how I manage communications throughout the course of my career.

Because she’s right. And more now than ever before.

Think about your own company’s communications and people policies for a minute. Since COVID-19 took off, you have likely changed your entire approach to the world of work. I’m certain your employees have been worrying — asking questions about the work environment, about the new services you can offer, how to connect with each other and the firm’s values. How did you initially react?

So many of us, when examining these requests in the light of our standard “menu” of communications tools, freaked out. In Barb’s parlance, we saw our comms offerings as “the cheeseburger,” but couldn’t see that underneath the piece of cheese was a hamburger waiting to be presented. Instead of getting flexible and learning how to recombine, re-vision, and revitalize our current communications and plans to meet employees’ needs many of us said, “We can’t do that!”

Yes, you can.

Because every cheeseburger begins life as a hamburger. Everything you do at your company can be stripped to its bare bones and recombined in ways that make sense to your employees in the current moment. In time, you can adjust your menu again as the world of work stabilizes.

In the current socio-economic climate, rigidity can be the condiment that no one wants. How can you make your company more adaptable to the requests and needs of your employee base, without sacrificing productivity and profitability (the reasons you’re in business in the first place)?

Keep it flexible. Give ’em the hamburger if that’s what they want.

Thanks, Barbara.

Debra Helwig is the senior internal communications manager for KCoe Isom.

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