When crafting executive comms (regardless of format), incorporating employee feedback is crucial.
Jolie Shifflet, senior director of business communications at Atrium Health, explained her approach during Ragan’s Employee Communications Conference this past June.
“When the pandemic started, referring to employees as ‘heroes’ was more than welcome and appreciated by the employees themselves,” she said. “But as the pandemic persisted, those same employees grew tired of being called ‘heroes.’ They wanted more normalcy. And all executive communications crafted from that point took this to heart.”
Shifflet also observed that as soon as any executive messaging goes out, the employee feedback is IMMEDIATE. This is a captive audience for such messaging. All the more crucial, then, to soak in that feedback immediately – and incorporate it when appropriate.
Rachel Gogal, director of executive communications, Atrium Health, also underscored the necessity of the executive comms team working with the internal comms team. There can be no silos here. The latter team hears directly from the employees so that constant collaboration is the only way to ensure that executive communications will reflect employee perspectives.
Gogal calls on her background in musical theater to craft executive communications. She thinks of herself as an actor walking on a stage and she has to leave “Rachel” behind and totally morph into the role she’s playing.
Meaning: Put yourself completely in the shoes of the executive for whom you are crafting the message. You might be the writer, but it is the executive ¬- not you – who is speaking to the audience.
So how do you put yourself in the executive’s shoes?
A major part of the executive communicator’s job is to study the executive, says Gogal. Know the words they like to use. For spoken communications (whether on stage or camera), learn their natural inflections and tempo. Do they use their hands a lot? Know the rhythm of how they speak.
Of course, you should still have fun with it when appropriate. If there is a song or movie they love, you need to know them well enough to recognize it and then you can incorporate a quote or lyric into the communication. It personalizes it for the executive and is often well received by the audience.
Analogies are also great to incorporate into executive communications because it helps the audience visualize and relate to the speaker even more. This helps people capture a message even faster.
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