Develop effective communication plans that get results

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What is the message? Sounds basic but if the message you want to send is not clear in your own mind it’s doomed to fail. Corporate office-driven messages tend to be communicated in broad, values-based statements that are not action focused. Employees read them and they have no clue what they should do in response. When starting your plan don’t proceed until you can clearly state the central point of the message so there is no question as to it’s meaning. Test it with a few people if there is any doubt.

What is the goal of the communication? Before you can completely shape the message you have to know what issue you are addressing and what response you desire. Some plans look for nothing more than awareness. “To make people aware of the consequences of certain work habits.” I contend that awareness doesn’t go far enough. What you really want is action or application. If certain work habits result in negative consequences, you want them to avoid those work habits and replace them with positive ones. That’s the goal of your communication—not awareness.

Who is the audience? Some plans make the mistake of including everyone within reach of the communication vehicle. This is a waste of effort and contributes to information overload. Who specifically needs the information? Front line employees? Sales people? Administrative assistants? Target your message to the specific audience to which it applies. Once you know your audience you will be more equipped to write the message more consistent with their situation.

What does your audience know or not know? Don’t make the mistake of telling them what they already know. What has been communicated before? Conduct research first to know what their questions are or obstacles they have faced in regards to the message you are sending. If you are trying to enlist more volunteers in an upcoming community event, poll a few to find out why they think attendance has been so low on previously planned activities. That’s good information to know when you craft your message.

How will the message be delivered? Depending on the tone or nature of your message it is important to pick the right vehicle to carry that message. Information that may raise a lot of questions or cause a lot of concerns should be delivered face-to-face to allow for discussion. Face-to-face message delivery also gives the sender the opportunity to convey a sincere tone that could be easily mistaken as cold and indifferent in a memo or email. Factual information, instructions and procedural changes work well in a written or electronic form so people can refer back for clarity. Video works well when a message from upper management needs to be communicated to employees in multiple locations in a short period of time. Employees feel they hear the message straight from the top. Just remember that video messages, unless updated regularly for intranet delivery become outdated quickly.

How will you gauge your audience’s response? Feedback is important for future messages. You need to know if they received the message and what was the reaction. Messages delivered electronically can offer feedback or polling options that can provide statistical data as well as specific comments. Informal polls can also be used following face-to-face encounters. Look for lagging indicators such as the number of people who sign up following an enrollment plea or the number of applications completed or volunteers who step forward. This information is important to archive when considering what communication vehicles will be the most effective to use in future campaigns.

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