In the first part of this article on incorporating a communications strategy into your change programme, I talked about the importance of communicating about the programme from the very outset, the need to describe why the organisation is making the change, and identifying who needs to be communicated with.
Moving on, this second part deals more with objectives and key messages within the communications strategy plus agreeing how the messages will be delivered, and by whom.
What are the communication objectives?
Now that you have identified your audiences, start to think about what you want each of these audiences to know and do as a result of the change: what specific actions are they required to undertake, for example, set up a new online member account? Or perhaps for some of the audiences, the change does not directly impact them, so being informed that the change is taking place is enough.
Once it is clear what you want your audiences to know and do, you can then start to define your communication objectives, which should be linked to the milestones of the change programme plan.
What are your key messages?
Consistency of message about the change – hearing the same messages from multiple sources is essential so that audiences gain confidence in the delivery of change and how it will impact them. Confusing or mixed messaging could increase levels of anxiousness amongst those affected by the change, risk losing faith in senior leaders to do the right thing, and may impact the adoption of the change.
Developing key messages that all those communicating the change can use – from the CEO through to the project sponsor and line managers will ensure agreement in the message delivery and reduce the potential for misunderstanding.
Being transparent and creating trust are important objectives to consider when devising the key messages. Letting audiences know what won’t be changing as well as what will change will help to provide reassurance.
How will the messages be delivered and who will deliver them?
For many of us, delivering communications face to face is not possible right now, so you need to be creative and think of as many channels as possible to relay your messages. During the pandemic, what effective communication channels have you identified for your organisation? Consider utilising your recent experience to help you in your current change programme.
Remember that different communication channels will be more appropriate for some audiences than others. You will likely have stakeholders with different needs and preferences for receiving and processing communications, for example digital versus verbal, so the same messages need to be delivered across as many different channels as possible to achieve the maximum engagement.
As well as mass communication channel, for example, an update from a CEO in a staff magazine, it is important to have communications delivered at a local level or in a smaller setting, for example in a briefing from a department head or line manager in a team meeting.
The latter is a good example of a two-way communication method – other examples include workshops and surveys – all of which have the big advantage of allowing the people affected by change to participate more fully in a discussion about the change. Having the opportunity to give opinions and raise questions or concerns will help to increase the confidence in the change programme by stakeholders and also the likelihood of the adoption of the change.
For more insight into the importance of a communications strategy within a change programme, join our free training programme “How to deliver successful projects”. Of particular interest among the 6 modules will be “How to deliver true organisational change” and “How to ensure your project delivers real benefit”.