So far, I’ve discussed why communications go wrong and the need for structure in project communications. Now for the most important element: your message.
The first thing to do when crafting communications: keep it short. The human brain can only handle up to three specific points in a given message. So even if you have a very lengthy and detailed update to put out, break your message out into no more than three distinct and memorable points. You can include details under each, and even sub-points, but whenever possible, keep your message organized so there are three main takeaways.
Secondly, as I discussed in Part 2, knowing your audience—the people you’re communicating with—is essential. For example, let’s say you’re rolling out a program and releasing weekly updates. You need to identify who’s going to be reading your updates—are they managers? Process owners? Office staff? Shop floor crew? Then ask yourself what those people want from your updates. It may sound horrible at first (so stay with me), but especially during a change project, the first question on everyone’s minds is what’s in it for me? They know their job’s being affected, and they’re concerned—that’s human nature.
It can also be helpful for you to do as marketers do and develop a persona for each type of person you’re communicating with (See Make Sure Your Message is Heard for the full explanation). With a specific person in mind—even an imaginary representative one—you can figure out what their hopes and worries around the project are and address them to help get their buy-in and acceptance. For example:
At the most basic level, your messages should always communicate to all these audiences that you care about them, their jobs, and what they need to be successful in them. By keeping the what’s in it for me? at the front of your mind, as you put together your communication, you’ll not only reassure them that the coming change is a good thing, but you’ll also keep them on your side—and believe me, you need them comfortable and on your side. Nothing will sink a project faster than having one or two groups of the players involved resisting or even sabotaging the changes you’re working toward.
Good communications meet people where they are. Your job is to know who your audience is, what they want, and then communicate to them what you’re doing in a way that they can be comfortable with the changes you’re helping implement to further their success.