In a recent post, Avoid Resistance, I identified three useful planning tools that will help you avoid unnecessary resistance:
- Stakeholder Triage
- Communication Schedule
- Transition Plan
In this post, I want to focus on putting together a communications plan.
It’s Just a Table
Let’s assume you want to create a plan for one of the stakeholders you identified as high priority, using your Stakeholder Triage. Start with a table with seven columns and plenty of rows. Each row will represent one component of your plan. Here are the columns you will need:
What are you trying to achieve from your communication?
What message do you need to get across to achieve your objective?
What tools will you use to communicate this message?
This is crucial and missed by many. Mis-communications often happen because we don’t strike the right tone. Right from the start, decide whether you need to inform or consult, request or require, tell or sell. Then, when you have drafted your message, check the tone.
When is the right time? Is it a one-off message or a regular message? Is it daily, weekly, monthly, … ?
Who will be responsible for gathering the information, preparing the message, and getting it out? These may not be the same person
… or they may all be you!
How will you test that your message has been received and understood?
A Word about Feedback
If your message is really important, don’t wait until you’ve sent it out into the world to test if you got it right. It’s too late by then.
A colleague of mine had to communicate about pensions to tens of thousands of current and former employees of her organisation. The message had to go to everyone by law, even though only a small percentage would be affected. Pensions are complex and confusing so, wisely, she had her staff pick one hundred recipients at random and had them sent the letter.
Confused, angry and upset
Over the next few days, most of them phoned in. Some were confused, some were angry, and some were upset. Just think what would have happened if the same proportion of the full mailing list had tried to phone in!
Using the feedback
So they listened to the resistance, understood the problems, and re-drafted the letter. As it says on shampoo bottles, “rinse and repeat”. They sent out another hundred. After a few cycles, they created a letter that got calls only from people who were affected by the changes. They could confidently communicate their message to everyone.
The Key Points
Plan your communication
test your message