Business basics, page one: You need to have a purpose. You need to make a profit. You need great people, clients and customers. And you need the S word. Not that one. Whisper it quietly – a strategy. Let’s face it, without the blueprint, how will anyone know what they’re building?
So where are you with yours? Maybe you’ve brainstormed some ‘buckets’ or ‘pillars’. Maybe even a fully fleshed out strategy ‘house’, ‘pyramid’, ‘umbrella’ or ‘roadmap’. But how do you get your clever business blueprint to lift off the PowerPoint slide? How do you create a living, breathing thing that your people can actually understand, personally relate to and crucially, put into action?
From an internal comms perspective, the first step is to express your strategic plans in concise, sticky and memorable language – i.e. a universally compelling story. The best way to do this is to use one simple principle: Make it human, make it personal.
If your strategic narrative is written in a language that only your executives can understand, then take a look at some of the thinking below around how you can humanise your communications, to make sure your messages really land with the people that matter.
Cut the crap
Forgive our bluntness, but most of your people don’t speak strategy, so it’s a good idea to cut the cr – let’s call it jargon. Simplifying the language, doing a ‘corporate spiel’ check and talking to your people as if you were chatting casually over a cup of coffee, are all good practice. How would you explain the strategy to a new graduate on their first day in the business? Probably with simplicity and a healthy dose of inspiration. Communicate it like that.
Make it snappy
If you’ve ever caught yourself saying “on slide 63 you’ll find an overview of our 17th strategic pillar”, then we might suggest you could condense your strategy comms down a little. Or a lot. We’re all newly conditioned (thanks to the smartphone) to consume short-form content very quickly, so even if your strategy is complex, there are ways and means to make it more digestible. If you must have ‘buckets’, how many do you really need? Can you cut down the words inside each one? How can you communicate the story in the pithiest way possible? If Mad Men’s Don Draper were to come up with the clever advertising campaign slogan for your strategy, what would it be?
Make it meaningful
Have you ever got to the end of a strategy communication (and sometimes even a supposedly simplified version) and asked yourself “but what does that actually mean?”. Us too. Grounding your strategy comms in the real world will create real meaning for your people. When everyone pulls together to deliver your strategy, what’s the payoff for them? How will it benefit your customers, clients and the business? How will your people have made the world a better place – and how will they know? And don’t forget to communicate ‘the ask’ of your internal audience – make it clear what you expect of them.
Make it memorable
There’s so much noise out there. And if your organisation is anything like most, your people will be consuming a colossal amount of content, every minute of every day. It’s too easy for your internal comms to go in one ear and out of the other. That’s why a compelling story, a memorable metaphor or even some charismatic characters can be devastatingly good devices to make your messages sticky. Think of your strategy like a novel or a TV show: If this is the first page or episode, what’s coming next? Where’s the tension? Who are the heroes and what’s their journey? What tricks can you use to turn it into a real page-turner or a binge-worthy box set?
Make it come to life
This is the best bit. The bit we get geekily excited about. If your strategy doesn’t have purposeful, practical value then it will just be words on a page. So, before you press ‘send to all’ to launch your strategy on email, is there a better way for you to engage your audience? Re-read your communications and ask yourself “is it 100% clear what every person in our organisation needs to think, feel and actually do to make this happen?”
For us, the level to which you invest in your internal communications will determine how much your people understand, and ultimately own your strategy. Don’t just give them the blueprint, show them how to help you build success.
Karen Kadin is a Managing Partner at live communications agency Brands at Work.