The disappearance of the aircraft on its way to Cairo this week has been disturbing. On many levels. And of course, completely devastating for the families of those who were on board. We’ve been watching the coverage on a range of media for updates and analysis. Beyond the terrible human tragedy, we’ve also noticed how the public has gone to different media at different times for different reasons.
The breaking news appears first on the TV and the radio, and of course on Twitter and other social media. These media are tailor made for facts and for instant reactions, using as their source, local news organisations, the general public and those experts that are immediately available.
But after the first 24 to 48 hours, the focus shifts from the instant reactions to the more considered analysis. And that’s to be found in newspapers, journals and websites that carry more in-depth journalism and reporting.
Each type of media has its place and its use.
And so it is in organisations as we’re planning a big announcement for change. We need to plan carefully which messages will work best in which media. And with that, how much – or indeed how little – is required for the biggest impact and the widest amount of understanding for the people who are going through the changes.
The traditional way of cascading information on a big change programme can go something like this: the ‘big’ announcement from the CEO followed by the more detailed and more ‘what’s in for me’ message from a senior leader for the people in their part of the organisation. This is often tracked by more local management messages, and concluded by an expert relevant to the changes – and that’s often HR.
But we like to think that there are different ways to manage the different channels of messages in an organisation. Take a piece of world news like the disappearance of the plane: the power of Twitter and other social media is equal to the ‘big’ news corporation’s reporting – and in fact, frequently, the large news businesses taketheir information from a range of social media in addition to any of their own local reporting.
And so it is in business. We need to ask ourselves: what’s the Twitter or similar equivalent in our organisation? Where do people go to to find out information in addition to the big corporate messages that come from the big bosses? It’s going to be different in each business but it’s helpful for us to map that out ahead of any change announcement. Being able to harness the power of different channels can add flavour or relevance or immediacy to the message. If employees go to specific opinion formers in the business to get their information, how do the change agents bring those opinion formers into the communications planning to make use of their reach? If employees go to the company’s social media platform, how can this be ready and geared as a discussion forum for people’s reaction to the announcement (and this means setting up specific forums with key leaders taking active part in on-line discussions)? Consider too the power of the alumni network which in some organisations is powerful and helpful. And don’t forget how mentor networks or other employee forums can help people to discuss, debate, argue and get information.
Change planning needs to include a mapping of the communications architecture to understand how people use different channels. And then the communications plan needs to make ethical and transparent use of those channels. After all, we want to get the right information to people at the right time. Immediate facts and then follow-up information and analysis. Just watch how the communications flow the next time your company makes a big announcement…..
20 May 2016