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Questions and Answers from The Conference Board Webcast: Building A Communication Strategy to Meet Your Objectives

  1. “Following up on the diversity question, what advice do you have to establish a communication strategy as a new leader of team that’s been together for 15 years?”
    This question sounds like it’s focused on a relatively small team versus a broader group of employees (e.g., an organization). This type of situation is certainly difficult to navigate but there are a few best practices you might consider following. First, focus on the “how” instead of the “what” in the early stages. This means focusing on getting to know the members of your team on an individual level and understanding how decision making has been handled in the past before focusing on any goals you may have. Along these lines, you would also want to have the team understand your values and your expectations for performance and behavior. Then, when you do get around to setting goals, make sure they’re clear and team members understand what’s expected from them. It’s also a good idea to focus on “low-hanging fruit” for your first initiatives. What do you see that can be accomplished somewhat easily and would achieve a positive result? Getting an early “win” can help you when you tackle more substantive challenges. And, as always, two-way communication with team members is essential. Encourage input and be a ready listener.

  2. “Outside of the recording, do you have any job aids to help out with some aspects of building the communication strategy? Are some materials available as slides?”
    When it comes to building an effective communication strategy, our top tip comes straight from the brilliant mind of Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.” Start with a clear vision of what you hope to accomplish. Are you looking to build awareness? Educate employees? Change their perceptions? Or change their behavior? Then outline tactics, timing and success measures to match. You can find a lot more on internal communication strategy on our PartnerComm blog

  3. “What is your suggestion on how best to toggle between updating management internally on the campaign while directing your team to the external work at hand?”
    Balancing upward and downward communication is always tricky. But keeping your leadership informed in the process and involved in decision making is usually a must. Different organizations have different expectations about how much management should be included, but there’s almost always some level of involvement expected. The challenge we most often see focuses on getting management buy-in before final decisions are made — which can mean communicating with them several times during a campaign (setting a budget, identifying goals, seeing a work plan, reviewing deliverables, etc.).

    From a practical standpoint, this usually involves the following steps:

    1. Clarify the process and timing for management involvement. Let your team know that, at certain points, the campaign ideas/deliverables will need to be reviewed by management. If your team expects a review and possible changes, they will be more mentally prepared for those changes.
    2. Help your team to understand why management reviews need to happen and what you hope to achieve through them. Besides changes to actual strategy or materials, the underlying reasons for changes are often related to the realities of setting a campaign up for success — helping to navigate the political realities of an organization. So, in the long run, these types of changes will only help the campaign, even if the team doesn’t initially see the value of the changes made.
    3. Allow enough time in the project plan for any suggested changes to be incorporated into your campaign. Any frustration from having to make unexpected changes can be exacerbated by having to make them overnight.
    4. Finally, try to create a feeling that management is actually part of your team and offers valuable insight. This is in contrast to an “us versus them” attitude, which can sometimes exist and cause problems no one needs.
  4. “Do you have a favorite class/training to learn how to be a great data storyteller to show the effectiveness of communication strategy, how/if you met your goals?”
    While we don’t have a formal training guide on how to structure a data analytics report, we can provide some insight on how we work with our clients to create custom analytics reports that help us evaluate success and guide future decisions.

    1. Start with your goals — what were your goals and objectives for this specific campaign? Typically, these goals are discussed in the planning phase of the project and provide a natural starting point for your evaluation. Reference both output-based goals (e.g., the number of people who visit a website, use a digital tool, watch a video, open an email) and outcome-based goals (e.g., changes in awareness and understanding, attitude or behaviors).
    2. Discuss the available data that measure impact against these goals ¬— what data streams can you pull from to show if your output- and outcome-based goals were achieved? For example, if one of your campaign goals was to drive awareness and understanding of a new medical plan option, you might include a variety of data points to show impact (e.g., website traffic to medical plan comparison pages and enrollment changes, medical plan tool usage, video views of case studies, email click-through rates, active enrollments in the new plan). Being proactive during your initial planning phase about your goals and objectives will ensure you have an adequate data source to measure against a given goal. For example, you may find that the only way to capture data about a particular objective is to conduct a baseline survey and measure changes in knowledge and perception in a post-campaign survey.
    3. Synthesize the data to present meaningful takeaways and recommendations — this portion of your report is really about the interpretation of part two. You have all the numbers and you’ve assessed if your goal was met, but what does that mean for future communication campaigns? Were video views higher than normal? What could have caused that, and should you use videos at a greater frequency? Perhaps traffic to key enrollment pages on your total rewards website was lower than the previous year — was the structure of the enrollment landing page different? Or perhaps your emails did not have direct links to those pages, which represented a change. Your ultimate goal is to evaluate and iterate from the data obtained so you can continue to build on successes and move the needle on long-term business goals.
  5. “Do you have any suggestions for how to maximize Yammer? We find it hard to get employees to read and participate in Yammer conversations.”
    The reality is that the reasons people use social media today are not always aligned with how companies want employees to use their internal social channels. Posting, following, and liking the people and activities that are a part of your non-work life are usually much more a part of what a person wants to share than that person’s suggestions for accessing the correct expense report.

    People are simply less likely to share work-related experiences at work where the unintended consequences of a social-type post are unknown. For example, if an employee thinks a boss might see a post and not be happy about it, the person may never make that post.

    So, what do you do? We have a few suggestions for maximizing engagement with your Yammer, Slack or Teams channels that will offer as much value as possible for potential users.

    1. Introduce both short- and long-term channels like Ask Me Anything (AMA), stories, challenges and Annual Enrollment to guide users to content that may be relevant to them. Giving users multiple options based on preference and context (rather than dumping everything in a single channel) is more likely to capture interest and drive engagement.
    2. Create a robust content calendar outlining your plan for each channel. This will ensure channels stay dynamic and relevant to what’s going on in your organization.
    3. Handpick super users who you can count on to engage. Without regular postings, the channel will fall flat quickly. Recruit reliable employees who have a passion for the channel’s topic to post regularly and engage with other users.
    4. Insert super-sticky content like video stories, games, contests and more to continue to drive engagement — especially for high-priority campaigns.
    5. Design a compelling communication campaign to encourage opt-ins.

    Bottom line: The use of internal social media in most companies is likely to be tied to a company’s culture. However, you can encourage its use and success by being intentional about your social media strategy and tying these internal channels to major communication campaigns.

  6. “What would be the most efficient way, in your opinion, to build a communication strategy around big initiatives that haven’t happened yet?”
    In actuality, that’s our favorite time to develop a communication strategy. Suppose, for example, that a company is planning on introducing a back-to-work policy that asks employees who have been working from home to come back to the office three or four days a week. The key elements of a communication strategy all come into play. First, you would want to clarify certain key points that will ultimately influence your messaging. So, for example, why is the company making this change? What do they hope to achieve? Etc. Second, what does the company want employees to know, think, feel and do? These are the goals that need to be clarified. Third, be sure you identify any barriers and challenges (and there are probably plenty in this example!). How are you going to account for these? How will they impact the policy or the communication?

    Then, you would want to start crafting the specifics of the strategy: Who should the initial communication come from? Rather than some anonymous HR department message, this specific change should probably be initiated by the CEO or CHRO. Then, focus on the specific messages you intend to convey to employees. What channels will you use? What’s the timing? What preparations are you making for unexpected reactions? Do you want to allow for upward communication from employees, and how will this be handled? What do you expect and want the outcomes to be and how will you measure these? How will you define success?

    We may have buried the lead somewhat in the above, because the simple question of “What’s the timing?” is key to the entire strategy. Developing and implementing a strategy for a complex initiative isn’t easy, especially if timing is tight. But identifying your goals and clarifying expected reactions before the campaign is initiated can go a long way to helping you achieve a successful outcome.