Lockdown Communication - Stop Collaborate and Listen!

As Spandau Ballet once sang “Communication let me down” and often in organisations this key aspect of engagement is often the case.

In the past few weeks I have focused on working in the communication/engagement rather than learning space which has been at times I freely admit a steep learning curve – remember the time I nearly deleted the website or lost half the folders on the site anyone? Fortunately, I have a very patient colleague who specialises in comms who has been on hand to guide me through the communication maze.

It is fair to say that we have been on a journey (cue X Factor/Bake Off – reality TV show of your choice theme music) and whilst there have been some bumps in the road we are inordinately proud of what we have been able to achieve through the use of

  • Regular communication – even my husband knows that Tuesday and Fridays are comms days!
  • Building a Share Point site which is the basis for most of our Coronavirus Communications
  • Weekly conference calls of which the recordings are shared, and people can ask questions on

And in the spirit of sharing here’s some of my key learnings

  • Keep it simple – no links within links – As a previous colleague said to me ‘Just because we could doesn’t mean we should’ It’s very easy to get carried away in the spirit of the moment and use all the bells and whistles and in the spirit of Vanilla Ice – ‘Stop, Collaborate and Listen’.
  1. What does it feel like to the end user?
  2. How practical is it to maintain? One of our challenges has been links within document which are great when they are published but what do you do when they have moved and what process do you have for re checking these?
  • Use clear Signposting – Here the key questions are
  1. How will people know where to find things?
  2. Are folders clearly labelled – will they make sense to anyone else? In a past life I frequently delivered training down South and as a confirmed Northerner exiled in Stoke, I often found myself looking at some bemused faces wondering what one earth I was talking about!

One of the things that we have found helpful is to use images consistently both in the email in which the comms are distributed and on the Share Point site which links the two things together.

  • Keep it fresh and innovative – It is very easy to be brilliant and rest on your laurels – once you have the basics in place think about what else can you do. Some things are simpler than others and here are some suggestions to get you started
  1. If you are sending our regular communications change the layout to attract people to read
  2. Think about using a range of images
  3. Consider using dynamic content – for example animation, frequently changed content. In a couple of weeks, it will be Mental Health Awareness week and we are considering a daily topic with frequent content changes.

 

  • Think about the words you use - ‘Looking After You and Yours – Ultimately communication is about engagement and one of the biggest turn offs can be use of language. Use words that people are comfortable with, that make sense and have a resonance outside the business. ‘Looking After you and Yours’ was suggested by another colleague and perfectly encapsulates what we wanted that page of the site to be about.

 

  • Focus on design – logic, the way things are laid out – I talked about making it easy for people earlier and this includes the design aspect. Focusing on the simple things like

 

  1. Grouping similar topics together
  2. Use subheadings to signpost a topic particularly if you have a lot of text heavy information going on
  3. Keep it clear – We have on a Tuesday morning a review of the front page of the site where we discuss what could be removed. This ensures that the page is both dynamic and accessible to people.

 

  • Keep it personal – Remember that at the end of all this communication there is a person who is not just a someone who does a task. Think about engaging the whole person by
  1. Recognising individuals in your communications who have gone above and beyond
  2. Highlighting individuals not just for their role but also for what they are doing outside of work – for example fundraising for NHS
  3. What do people need to help them outside of work? We have pages on our site which feature gardening and cooking tips and links to the Citizens Advice Bureau and a virtual tour of the Louvre

 

  • Seek outside feedback – So you have your comms in place – it looks brilliant, people are interacting with it – again this is not a time to rest on your laurels. Seeking feedback from outside the business can give you a fresh perspective and cause you to ask questions that you may not have considered before. Remember that sometimes this process can be painful but particularly in times like these we need to let our ego go and listen to what is being said. Be more Vanilla Ice!

 

  • Seek feedback from users – In as many different ways and ask as many times as you can without it feeling repetitive. Ways to try this include

 

  1. Set up a separate email address which enables you collate the feedback quickly and easily - and if you do this always respond to emails
  2. Encourage interaction through competitions with prizes or encouraging people to share their stories
  3. Build in feedback loops to existing process – for example we use a Microsoft form to gather questions for our weekly conference call and at the bottom of the form we ask 3 specific questions to gather feedback

 

  • Analyse the data and learn from it! Anyone how knows me will know I am a bit of a data nerd – it can tell us so much and inform our decision in an evidenced based way rather than a ‘I think that’s what people need’. I also have a pet hate about people calling L&D pink and fluffy and providing reports which utilise data to make clear recommendations shows a logical objective approach – in another world this would be a business case.

 

Parallels with learning

My final reflections on my journey into the world of communications is that it has a lot in common with learning

 

  • In learning we facilitate to make things easy and accessible communications has the same aim – keep it simple and engaging.
  • Rituals such as communicating at the same time, using consistent symbols and images help reinforce the message
  • As with learning engaging people with the message helps it to stick – encourage interactive content rather than reading as a passive experience
  • Ask for feedback and use the data both to demonstrate how you are adding value and for continuous improvement purposes

 

Thanks for reading and hope you found it useful – onwards and upwards in these crazy times as my Mum always says and as a parting shot, she loves Vanilla Ice!

 

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