IC Matters

Employee Comms

Two hacks for knowing what and how to communicate


 — August 8th, 2019

Two hacks for knowing what and how to communicate

Employee communication is more than just relaying information about an organization’s offerings or a new campaign.

It’s integral to company culture, employee well-being and output, and the organization’s reputation and success.

And a particularly productive way to make your communication feel more meaningful is by increasing the amount and quality of face-to-face communication with employees.

But even if you know the value of this work, it can be challenging to know what and how to communicate.

To this end, in a Poppulo webinar, Sean Williams, Vice President of True Digital Communications offered two tools that are designed to work together to improve your face-to-face communications practices.

What to Communicate, and How?

Sean’s two tools are called the 4 Ps and CORE. To put it simply, the 4 Ps teach you how to communicate, and CORE teaches you what to communicate.

The 4 Ps

To begin, you have to organize how you see your issue, and the 4 Ps provide a framework for doing just that. They include the following principles:

  • Purpose
  • Picture
  • Plan
  • Part
Start with the purpose—what are you trying to accomplish? In every form of communication, from emails to conference calls to newsletters, your purpose has to be clear. If employees can’t figure out the purpose of the messaging, they’ll likely get frustrated and tune out.

So, at the beginning of every offering you produce, clearly articulate the purpose, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Next, focus on painting a picture. Too often, our need to convey detailed and even complex information results in messaging that’s text-heavy and overly long, which is a sure way to lose an employee’s interest.

As Sean says, “Words inform, but pictures inspire.” So use stories, metaphors, and evocative language to bring your words and data to life. In this way, you can inspire and engage employees.

Now you can move on to sharing the plan. This is where you tell employees how you’re going to realize your purpose.

Don’t buy into the idea that employees don’t need to know the details. They’ll naturally have questions about the ramifications of the plan—for example, how things will change, how the company will move through changes, and how those changes will affect the employee’s job duties or security.

So, sharing the plan is essential, but so is giving employees a part to play. This is a collaborative effort; let employees define part of the plan so they have some skin in the game. This gives them agency and can contribute to employee satisfaction and retention.


So now that you know how to communicate, the question becomes, how do you decide what to communicate? Look to the CORE:

  • Changes
  • Objectives
  • Reasons
  • Effect

Thinking about changes means asking a lot of questions about change. What’s changing, and how is it affecting the organization? What needs to change for the company to realize its vision? What are the consequences of past changes the company has made? You need a full picture because when you’re communicating with employees, articulating the changes is how you get that dialogue started.

You’ll also want to share the company’s objectives with employees. Explain what the company’s goals are and how the changes will help the organization accomplish these goals.

Give employees the reasons why the company chose this path. They may be wondering, “Why this instead of something else?” Employees may naturally feel resistance toward change, but having a good understanding of the underlying reasons for the change can go a long way toward allaying their concerns.

Finally, discuss the effect that you expect the changes to have on employees, their community, and the organization as a whole. This is an often-overlooked step, perhaps because leaders assume that employees will see the effects in a negative light. However, even if you have to deliver some bad news, remember that most employees are resilient. They can handle the bad news, but they can’t handle the uncertainty. So be upfront about everything they can expect—both good and bad.

Improve Face-to-Face Communication

Often, leaders avoid face-to-face communication about changes and other thorny issues for fear that they’ll be unable to answer employees’ questions. As an employee communications professional, you can use the 4 Ps and CORE to help prepare leaders to answer questions in greater detail.

Convince them of the value in keeping employees engaged and informed, give them the tools they need to address concerns, and remind them that they don’t need to be afraid of a negative reaction from employees.

Harkening back to the idea that people can handle bad news, but they can’t handle not knowing, remind leaders that it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’d love to give you more details on that, but I’m not permitted to.” Even if employees can’t get every question answered, they’ll be more reassured if they understand the reason why.


As an employee communications professional, part of your job is to go beyond creating effective messaging and to actually teach others in your organization to be better communicators. The 4Ps and CORE are simple, effective ways to accomplish both. They can help you refine your communications and help you teach leaders to communicate more effectively, engage with employees, and ask better questions.

For more information about these complementary tools—as well as details on employing a third tool to help improve your listening skills—check out Sean’s Poppulo webinar.

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