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Talk about what’s in it for them

If you’re communicating in a strategic fashion, letting your people (the company’s employees) know about stuff that’s happening in the next year, next five years et cetera then be prepared for a ‘so what‘ reaction.

Yes, yes, you do indeed need to keep people informed, and yes yes, you need to let them know about the company’s plans to invest a further two million in infrastructure and how you’re aiming to gain the ‘Investor in People’ stamp by late next year. If you didn’t do all this strategic communication, people would complain that you were treating them like mushrooms*. I’m just saying you should be prepared for people to shrug and move on.

So what is it that people care about? What do they want from the communications we send / broadcast to them?

The “what’s in it for me” question

Vodafone say “now is good” (and I should know, I did some Internal Communications project work for them in Germany). Now is good, and your people want to know why they should care about the new company KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) now, not in 12 months time when their bonus is dependent on the results.

If your comms is to have impact it must not only be relevant to the reader / receiver, but relevant to them at this very moment in time.

People have to be able to take something away from your comms that matters to them right now, for today. One way to work out if communications are relevant is to reflect on if there is anything actionable within your comms. If you’re asking people to dump the green forms and download the new pink forms, then that’s actionable and you’ve got a clear ‘call to action‘. If you’re telling people that you’re ‘pleased to announce** that the pink forms will be online ‘soon‘ then your little announcement means nothing to your audience.

Once you’re certain that your message is relevant, and timely (i.e. relevant right now) then just check what the ‘takeaway‘ is from your article.

Takeaways are good for your figures

Imagine that someone read every word of your communications (just imagine if they did!); an hour later, what would they retain? What would they tell their Line Manager when she asked what was going on?

What’s the one thing you’d want people to remember, to talk about?

Make sure that point, that takeaway, is in your opening paragraph, and that you reference it in your closing paragraph.

Your people will shrug and move on if they can’t find the takeaway. Let them know why your message is relevant to them right now.

[Wedge]

*Kept in the dark and fed on shit.
**If I see that phrase one more time I shall scream.

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

One thought on “Talk about what’s in it for them

  • I completely agree Wedge. I once worked as a mushroom (nice term, I’m stealing it ;) ) in a large finance office, and their emails were almost word-for-word “We’re pleased to announce that in the near future the new system interface will be available.”

    I think it’s a misconception from on high that ANY message is better than NO message. Senior management didn’t understand the power of their internal comms, and as a result the company was (and is still) dying on the inside.

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