In a recent webinar guest host Steve Crescenzo spoke about creating corporate content and communications that people will actually pay attention to and act on. In this first of two guest posts, Steve answers some of the questions asked during the webinar.
1. What advice would you offer on how to communicate effectively during periods of significant change impacting on the people in an organization?
Communicate as much as you can as soon as you can. And then communicate about what you can’t talk about yet, or don’t know about yet. It’s my experience that employees can handle just about any kind of change. What they can NOT handle is an information vacuum. That’s where the rumor mill kicks into high gear, and employee morale and engagement can nose dive. So work with your leadership to get as much accurate information out there as soon as you can. And coach your leaders that it’s okay to say, “We don’t know that yet,” if they don’t know it, or “A decision hasn’t been made yet.”
2. How do you mutually engage employees when the business units are from different verticals/industries.
By telling stories from all the different verticals/industries, and whenever possible showing how those people influence each other and possibly even work with each other. The communicator’s job is to tie those silos together, and the best way to do that is to tell compelling, interesting stories that feature employees “closest to the work” in each of those silos.
3. What’s the best way to source stories enterprise-wide?
The easiest way, in my opinion, is to have a robust social media presence where employees are having conversations, collaborating, blogging, commenting on articles, etc. The communicator can then sit back and be a social media “spy” and pull great content, story ideas, and sources from those various online channels. If you don’t have that luxury, then put the word out to managers that you are looking for ways to tell the organization’s stories by featuring employees – who are the subject matter experts closest to the work. Once you start doing those kinds of stories, people will usually start coming forward, either with their own stories, or to recommend other story ideas.
4. These examples of creative stories look like they take time. What do you recommend if you only have a few bits of info and a deadline of 1-2 hours? How do you turn that into something worth reading?
In those cases, I think you have to shelve the “creative” part of the Four Cs we talked about on the Webinar (Creative, Compelling, Conversational, and Concise) and focus on the other three Cs. Go to the “What does the audience need to know? Why should they care? What do you want them to do with the information.” Answer those questions, being as concise and conversational as you can, and make sure the “Compelling” component (“Why should they care?) is up front and prominent, and not buried under a bunch of corporate-speak. Get right into it!
5. It takes time and planning to write impactful stories. How do you combat leaders who are buying in, but they want you to do it now (or worse, last week)?
Set expectations with them. Like anything else, great communications take time. Let them know that if you have x amount of time, these are the kinds of stories you can do. If you have y amount of time, these are the kinds of stories you can do. And if you give me z amount of time, I can tell creative, compelling stories that will help the organization achieve its business goals. Your choice.
6. What are some recommendations for organizations that say they want storytelling embedded into their communications, however they resist the end product?
In general, this is where research and measurement comes in. A little measurement can go a long way. Do some measurement around the different types of stories. See which ones are being read, commented on, acted on, etc. See what kinds of stories are engaging the audience, motivating them, educating them, etc. It won’t be the dry, corporate stories so many organizations fall back on because of deadlines, approval processes, fear of trying something new, and all the other factors that lead to boring, “Corporate” communication. It will be the content that uses storytelling techniques, focuses on people, finds the drama, and is written in a friendly, consumer style that are getting the audience’s’ attention. If you can prove that with some measurement numbers, you win.