Internal communication teams often don’t get all the resources they need to run and sustain initiatives. Especially, in a year like 2020, managing through the crisis and emerging from COVID19 meant that organizations and communication teams were distracted from core responsibilities. In such situations, when the ‘lights need to stay on’ and yet employees expectations continue to evolve, created challenges and opportunities for communicators to think frugally and creatively for solutions. In this article, I share how teams can run engaging campaign and yet manage to do it with efficacy and poise.
The advantages and disadvantages of communicating in a pandemic are well established. Advantages include the speed at operating when engaging virtually, the ability to connect across geographies and seamless. Lastly, the ease of getting feedback – quicker and simpler, allows communicators to improve messages and engagement. The downside of this environment is that everyone is stretched for time, attention spans are dwindling, the clamor for the same screen space is increasing and not all audiences are comfortable with online content and systems. Here is a framework for communicators to adapt while
- Listen and adapt: The ability to make the most of resources depends on how communicators use insights from online behaviors and actions. Investing in listening what staff have on their minds and crafting your messages to align with the times helps to improve acceptance. Knowing that there are limited resources means seeking ideas and implementing newer approaches matters. For example, by intently listening to staff we invited content from their children who also wanted to be part of the campaign!
- Involve and empower: Communications is a team sport and taking your staff along the journey is a key role of the team. Frugal innovation works best when the infrastructure is tweaked (investing in digital media and training, for example) and rewiring your staff’s mindset (mental model of what to expect, for example) can get the best outcomes. Involve your employees to contribute to business challenges and crowdsource solutions. Make them a part of the journey and not just ‘be told’ of decisions made by those in higher echelons of power. It may take time to build trust and it will not be easy. However, in times when you need to focus on effectiveness over aesthetics, the former will be mostly preferred.
- Rethink recognition: If your organization has been doling our freebies to incentivize participation pre-COVID19, it can get challenging in the current environment we operate in. The expectations of rewards and recognition for engaging with internal communications can lead to undue pressure and unwanted results – diminishing attention spans and assimilation of messages. In the current scenario, recognition needs to be linked to inner satisfaction and a higher purpose. In his book – Drive, Daniel Pink refers to Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery to engage staff. When employees can see the ‘why’ behind initiatives that involve them, the recognition follows. Often, it doesn’t cost a dollar. For example, putting the spotlight on employees in key internal communication updates gave the necessary recognition.
- Reinforce and reiterate: During disruptive times, there are a lot of concerns on peoples’ minds and most probably, the organizational messages aren’t a priority. While that can get communicators miffed when communications don’t ‘get through’, investing in reinforcement and reiteration can help immensely. We already know that when messages are consistently communicated over 5 times, they get embedded. Using different forms of communications – web, online and 1:1, the value of the campaign can be highlighted better.
- Measure and share success: With feedback loops easier to manage during these times and with digital infrastructure in place, make sure your frugal efforts are communicated with stakeholders often. Report the impact of the campaign, how much your team invested, what the returns are, how it added value to the business and linked with goals set at the start. For example, reporting progress and demonstrating change can help to get more managers and leaders on board.
Considering the current state of geopolitics, the changes to the business environment and the evolution of employee communication, there will always be a need to think differently about engaging stakeholders. Having an open mind, staying adaptable and listening intently will empower internal communicators to be frugal while creating memorable campaigns.