No change initiative can occur successfully without proper organizational communication. When communicating for change, messages are conveyed to audiences with the purposes of keeping people informed and mobilizing the organization. Communication is the means to gain attention, educate, and get individuals and groups to take action to move the change initiative forward.
As an internal change advocate for your organization, communication is one of the main tools you use to reach your goal and desired outcome. Yet, we frequently see people who are responsible for implementing change who use communication in a haphazard fashion, without a solid plan. The resulting hodgepodge of newsletters, posters and meetings tells a less-than-compelling story of change.
Use the following five-step process from the Pinpoint Communication Workbook to develop a comprehensive communication plan for your change initiative:
1. Target Your Audience
Your change initiative is not one-size-fits-all. Expectations vary for different groups when it comes to the new behaviors and attitudes that are required for success. How you communicate to each group should vary accordingly.
Examples of the various ways you might slice and dice the organization are:
• Organization level (executives vs middle management vs front line employees)
• Region or geography
• Department or function
• Union vs. Non-Union
• Internal vs. external stakeholders
The whole organization is also often considered to be an audience – it’s just not the only one.
2. Craft Your Message
The content of your communication is the message you will deliver to the organization. Organizational communication is made up of broad-based themes that help ensure consistency while maintaining flexibility to customize for each audience.
There are three phases of communicating a change initiative: Entice, Educate, and Engage.
At first, you want to gain attention by making your message stand out from the myriad other inputs that employees deal with every day. Pique your audience’s curiosity, and surprise them with the unexpected.
Once you have the attention of your audience, the next step is to inform and educate them about your initiative. Let them know what it is and why the organization is doing it.
The next step to communication is to motivate the audience to take action with the information they’ve been given. Tell them what you want them to do, how to do it, and what’s in it for them to participate.
3. Select Your Media
Once you know what you want to communicate to your audience, the next step is to determine the means. There are a variety of communication vehicles at your disposal, including in-person meetings, audio/visual methods, written messages and the internet. Also, the messenger, the person who is delivering the message over the channel, is also important to consider. For example, is it an email from the CEO, or a one-on-one conversation with a supervisor?
4. Map Out Your Schedule
Arrange the details of your communication plan – the audiences, the messages and the media – into a manageable timetable that fits the project plan for your change initiative. The plan should be a visual representation of communication over time that is easy to track.
5. Monitor Your Effectiveness
The ultimate measure of change communication is the change itself. The lagging indicators, then, are the metrics that show how well the message is received and whether change occurred. Instead of waiting until the end of the project to see if communication worked, consider other leading indicators that show progress, like whether people are receiving the media and understanding the message. Some examples include Traffic, Comprehension, and Retention.
Ultimately, the real goal of any communications plan is to make itself obsolete. The best-case scenario is that managers and others start talking about the change without having to be a part of a plan, and that the desired changes become incorporated into the day-to-day operation of the company. In order to get there, remember you must take deliberate steps to share the intended message with the appropriate audience using accessible, credible media in a manageable timetable.