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I heard, but I didn’t know

If you’re trying to reach a diverse audience (and don’t you agree, all audiences are diverse) then you’ll want to ensure you use a variety of channels and mediums in order to reach them.

As we know, not everyone has access to the intranet, but even if most people do, not everyone likes having to pay attention to the web, or reading from the screen.

I’ve always said that if you want a person to really know something, tell them multiple times though multiple channels. My new acquaintance, Avril, reminds me that this isn’t repetition, it’s reinforcement.

If you want an audience to know something, you gotta recognise that they won’t even notice all your multiple channels. Some channels just don’t register with people, some channels can’t reach them.

Some people will claim that they were never told about something. Maybe you’re implementing a new pay system, or there’s a change to your customers’ favourite product; your people need to know about it and you’ve published intranet stories and sent email cascades around the business. Yet people still claim to know nothing of the changes, and cry out loudly that the company is making silent changes in order to shaft everybody.

When you check with these people, after time, you may well hear “Oh well I saw it on the intranet, but I didn’t know it was really happening”.

What? What’s going on here? Did they think it was a joke story? How can they complain and claim they’ve never been told about the change, and yet admit that they’d heard about it, and read about it?
Because they scan-read. They got a basic understanding about ‘some change’ but they didn’t understand that it was coming into effect and would affect them. They didn’t link the boring announcement with an actual change in business practice or ways of working.

It sounds utterly juvenile doesn’t it? As the communicator, or the manager, you just want to hold your head in your hands and say “So you read about it, heard about it, but feel that we didn’t communicate the need for change to you?”. It’s as if some people abdicate all personal responsibility for their work-lives to their managers and to the company.

If you want people to really understand something, you have to go beyond just raising awareness about it. You have to reinforce the message by talking about it more than once, and you have to reach out to people using multiple channels over a period of time. You can’t just send out broadcasts on a Monday and expect everyone to ‘get the message’ by Tuesday. Your audience may be ‘aware’ of something on Monday, but only through consistent and contextual ongoing communications will people build the new knowledge into their working habits. Don’t tell people, show them.

Communications isn’t about ‘telling people’; it’s about helping people come to an understanding – their personal understanding of the larger picture.


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.