3 Ways to Wow the Communications-Averse Client
Most, if not all, companies undergoing large organizational change programs understand the importance of communications. We've all heard clients say, "Communications is key to the success of this project," "Without strong communications, we'll never successfully implement," and "We need to keep people in the loop to get them on board."
"Oh, but we can't tell anyone anything."
Clients may want to communicate, in theory, but in practice become silenced by lack of clarity over the direction of the project, fear of saying the wrong thing or a desire to have everything perfect before making any public statements. Managers tend to underestimate their employees' tolerance for changing conditions and their willingness to be forgiving as long as they're being consistently engaged.
Good communicators know, however, that silence isn't golden. Managers and project leaders who don't consistently communicate risk letting the rumor mill rule the day, and by the time they're ready to communicate, the message and perception of the project is out of their control.
Here are 3 practical strategies to help both dispel the rumors and win over even the most communications-averse client sponsor:
Engage leadership in crafting the messages and delivery. Leaders, change champions and influencers are more likely to help spread messages that they had a hand in creating.
A Communications Workshop is an effective way to get everyone to align on the project's 3-5 key messages for your materials and branding going forward. It also allows them to give input into how those messages are disseminated. Seed the conversation with questions such as: What 3 things do we want people to know about this project? What are the top 3 benefits of making this change? What about this program is most exciting to us?
Start small and remember: Small wins are still wins. Just because you've built an ambitious, multi-channel communications plan doesn't mean the client will be ready to roll it out.
If no one will hit send on a weekly email newsletter to the whole company, try breaking the audience down into smaller segments by area or manager, and send targeted messages prioritized by who needs to know what and when. Instead of a large-scale Roadshow, schedule small informational sessions that piggy-back on existing meetings such as team All-Hands gatherings or conference calls. Forego that encyclopedia-sized brochure in favor of an eye-catching and accessible one-page flyer about the project, and point people to a website or resource for more information.
Ask employees what they want to know - and then tell them. Too often, leaders talk at audiences rather than treating communications as a conversation.
In addition to stakeholder interviews and focus groups, schedule informal one-on-one chats with key employees to talk about what they're hearing, what they want to know and how they'd like to be told. People appreciate the opportunity to be heard, and it gives you a way to discover that great ideas often come from unexpected places. It also allows you to gauge how existing communications are perceived, what's working and what isn't.
Working with the communications-averse client can be a challenge, but with a little creativity and a lot of perseverance, you'll pry those lines of communications open and give your change program the boost it needs.