As change consultants, we need to support our clients and produce documents and correspondence that are easily digestible, attractive, branded, concise, and effective.
BE CLEAR & CONCISE
Avoid lengthy explanations and long documents, people are busy. Getting your point across concisely increases the chances of them reading what you have to say and acting upon it. Cut out any repetition or redundant text and replace long complex thoughts and words with shorter equivalents. You don’t want recipients to have reached the end of your document and feel they must go back to the beginning to try and make sense of it.
Correct messaging is essential – check your facts, dates, times, reasoning etc. As the messaging will not be effective if there are errors or inconsistencies. Once you have the facts, try and think about the information flow, with a beginning, middle, end.
Make sure your message is coherent. Ensure that there is a logical flow from each message/sentence heading or paragraph to the next. Think of it like a story as this will guide your recipient(s) understanding. Spend time planning your structure when you start, and you’ll save time at the writing or creation stage. As a guide think of the 5W’s+H to try to anticipate any questions your recipients might ask.
• WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
Identify the person, team, project, level in which this communication will be shared? How much they know about your subject already will set the message parameters. Do they require more detail or just an overview? What will they be doing with the information you provide? Sharing it downstream, being actionable, or storing it?
• WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE?
What is the change? What is being asked of them and what results are required? Remember to keep it simple, as generally decisions have already been made and there is no need to explain at length. For example: “As we have acquired company XX, we have identified the need to move our processing plant to Kalamazoo effective March 1st.” Think also of the WHO – what do they need to know and do to achieve your goal? For example: “At the end of your workday, simply logout and power down your computer on Tuesday February 28th.” “Sign up for a training session by Friday at 4:00 pm to learn all about the increased efficiency of your new system.” It’s crucial you know what your aim is. There will be times when you’re simply giving information, but often your message is to influence and persuade – to get the recipient(s) to take some kind of action. Being as clear and concise about what your goal is will allow you to formulate key messages to achieve it.
• WHERE IS THIS GOING?
Where will it most resonate? You’ve identified the WHO – WHERE will tie into the HOW you’ll dispense as well. See HOW below.
• WHEN DO YOU DEPLOY?
It’s important to understand the flow of the organization, department, or team you are communicating to. Do your due diligence, for example don’t send out an important comms on a Friday when the company offers ½ day workdays. Nor on a day when the CEO’s message is to land. Do however, schedule a drop that allows for digest time but not so far in advance that an action item will be forgotten. • WHEN ARE THEY REQUIRED TO ACT? If the recipient is expected to act, do something for example: “Move your workstation, shut down your computer, change your process etc.” Identify the date, time and if necessary, consequences if not completed. Don’t leave it to them to decide when to act with whatever information you’ve provided, be clear on when they need to act.
• WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
They are receiving this message because it affects them in some way and it has a CTA (call to action), or it’s a company courtesy to keep them informed. Here is where you will identify the urgency of the message if there is a CTA. Also identify the positive WHY this is important – added benefits, efficiency, spend, or ease this will bring to a team or individual. This is where you would identify and alleviate concerns.
• HOW WILL THEY BE AFFECTED?
How will the recipients be affected and why should they care? For example, nobody cares that Windows 7 can run in 64-bit mode (feature) – what they care about is that it can handle more memory and run faster than the current 32-bit operating system letting them get work done more quickly (benefit). Benefits engage people – how will this make their lives easier or better.
• HOW WILL YOU DISPERSE?
Understand and identify how the organization best ingests and engages messaging. Where do they see the highest response? E-mail, intranet, video chat, leadership meeting, produced video, message board, desk drop etc. This may also be a good time for you to introduce /suggest a new deployment method to increase engagement.
Make sure your use of spelling, language, and punctuation are all consistent. Check that formatting and layout are simple. Adhere to brand guidelines when required, and make sure that your headings, bullet points and fonts are all in line. Whether it be a final version or in draft form, double check, then safety check, and ask for a second set of eyes to proof it. The content messaging could be stellar but may be less effective as some recipients will focus on a typo or grammatical error. • Is the message clear and not convoluted or redundant? • Is the format easy to follow? • Is it on brand for the organization? • Is it to the point and leaves little to no question on directive, purpose, and action required? • Is the spelling and punctuation correct?
BE ON POINT
Tone tolerance, the 3 F’s: Formal, Friendly, and Familiar. Annual Reports tend to be formal while emails are often more friendly. Familiar tone is used for friends or colleagues you know well. In a corp. comm, too familiar can come across as less important. If you don’t know your audience well stay in the formal to friendly zone. Information is formal yet streamlined, action items are best conveyed in a friendly tone. For example: “As we transition to our new office space, it’s imperative that we all adhere to the security procedures for the safety of yourself and your teams. Please sign up to attend the 30-minute safety meeting today at 3:00 pm and encourage a colleague to join you.”
Finally, don’t forget to be courteous to your recipient. Respect their time by keeping your comms brief and gauge their level of understanding of the subject matter. Try to translate complex concepts into simple language and thought. Avoid spelling out unnecessary detail.
A good source is the one-pager – Managed TM Change Methodology of Levvel / LaMarsh Global.
- Develop the message to answer: • Why? Why Now? • What? • How?
- Use language that the affected groups understand
- Critical messages should be delivered by leaders
- Don’t over utilize one method (e.g., e-mail)
- Think about whether the message should be “push” or “pull”
- Utilize the leader cascade to send out and reinforce messages
- Establish a “single source of truth”
- Provide mechanisms for feedback and responding to questions that affected people have
LaMarsh Global is a premiere, worldwide change consultancy firm that has shared their proven process for nearly 40 years. And since 2016, Levvel have been their exclusive, licensed Managed Change™ affiliate in Canada.
~Cherene Kambeitz- Marketing & Communications Director, Levvel Inc.