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Are internal comms roles “dead”… or is IC heading for a renaissance?

In the nearly 20 years I have been an internal comms pro, Internal Communication has been prematurely pronounced dead on a number of occasions, to be subsumed into “sexier” or more exalted specialties.

In his blog post earlier this week, London’s Dillan Shikotra makes a similar prediction:

“My prediction is that Internal Communication will evolve into ‘employee experience’. It will look more holistically at all the touch points an employee has with the organisation, starting from offer, onboarding, training, right through to offboarding & beyond. Job titles such as Internal Communications Advisor/Manager/Director will be replaced by Head of Employee Experience, Employee Engagement Manager and Employee Experience Executive. And we are seeing this already, with companies like Sky, Vodafone and Airbnb appointing their very own ‘Head of Employee Experience’. “

Dillan adds:

“What does this mean for us IC practitioners? It means we must evolve like Pokemon Go characters. It will require us to have a deeper understanding of employee needs, be subject matter experts on digital/social media channels, challenge the leadership team more and stay current on new ways of working. We will need to move from a channel based approach to an employee experience approach. It’s not going to be easy, but then change never is. We’ll also need to start working more closely with our HR, L&D and IT colleagues to ensure the first interaction with the company is positive (strong employer brand), that everyone has a positive onboarding experience, that 2-way communication channels are in place from day one and that the employee’s voice will always be heard.

Those who embrace this change will be the ones who will drive & shape the next phase of this evolutionary journey of internal communications.”

What made me take notice of the piece was that it received a large number of likes and positive comments—somewhat more than the usual for an opinion piece about internal comms.

But the enthusiasm for having the adoption of sexy nomenclature by trendy companies portend “the new future” for internal comms needs to be tempered by a few realities:

  • The “Head of Employee Experience” and related job titles themselves, with their focus on employee touchpoints with tangible processes as well as communication moments, sounds much more like an IC-savvy HR roles rather than a defining evolution of internal comms, because IC serves other key purposes and stakeholders than HR departments and their current pressing need to keep millennial (and other) employees happy.
  • Political upheaval, especially in the West, will create unprecedented demand for internal communication to drive and sustain perceptions of organizational stability and resilience in the face of what is happening in the larger context.
  • If the political upheaval leads to economic turmoil, and internal communication has been able to demonstrate its value to a given organization, IC may play a key role in helping the organization retain and connect key people even it shrinks or merges.
  • Even if the impact on business of the current political crises is relatively painless, organizations are unlikely to subsume the change communication, employee advocacy, operational support and leadership comms that IC professionals currently lead into a function with an unrelated or even a conflicting purpose.

I bring these points out not to scold Dillan – whose piece raises valid points and who has opened up a potentially critical conversation about the future of the profession. But I encourage IC practitioners to consider an alternative view, that rather than being on our deathbed as a profession, Internal Communication’s best days may soon be to come.

Already, we add value across a variety of crucial organizational activities.  And as our world looks turmoil in the eye, we may find ourselves playing many crucial roles in enabling our organizations to survive and even thrive.  We may need to adapt, but there is no need to surrender.

 

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The rise of the angry voter: observations and questions for business (UPDATED)

2016 continues to shape up as a year of the “angry voter” in the West, as evidenced by such phenomena as Donald Trump’s unexpectedly high poll numbers at this late stage of the U.S presidential campaign, the narrow victory of the “Brexit” referendum to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, and strong electoral showings and polling numbers for anti-establishment political parties elsewhere in Europe.

With very little academic or practitioner research on the current situation, it’s difficult to tell directly what the current trend towards voter anger means for businesses and for business communicators.  But it’s worth looking at the question – to what extent does a person’s political anger spill into his or her behavior as an employee or customer?

Here are some observations:

  • Angry voters are angry because they are insecure

Fears and dissatisfaction about economic standing and social status have long been recognized as drivers of voter anger, and that insecurity will almost certainly manifest itself in customer and employee behavior.

  • Not every voter is an angry voter

Even with the surge in popularity for anti-establishment and anti-immigrant parties and candidates in the West, they are not the majority.  Even support for Brexit was barely over 50%.  So voter anger is a strong trend but not the whole picture. It’s something to account for, but not something that is yet overwhelming .

Some practical questions:

1)   Should you adjust your tone?

Brand voice and internal leadership tone often reflect a one-way flow of power in the relationship, but employees and customers who are challenging the establishment at the voting booth may well bristle at being talked at, or in the case of the use of the “corporate We,” spoken for without their explicit consent.

2)    Is there any shared dissatisfaction that can be used to build common ground?

Although angry voters have been presented as being driven by such factors as racism and xenophobia, there may be issues of common dissatisfaction where businesses can tap into and get ahead of voter and employee anger and be seen as making a tangible contribution to address matters of common interest

3) Is this a time for organizations to be brave and challenge misconceptions?

The idea of diversity in societies and organizations is implicitly being challenged by the tone of the current political climate.  But studies show that diversity benefits organizations even when feared by some employees. Could this be the right time to make that case in a fact-based and emotionally resonant way?

4) Is it time to change the messengers?

At a time when mainstream corporate leaders as well as political leaders are being viewed with increasing suspicion, could this be a good time to think about making better use of mid-level employees and trusted peers as advocates of organizational messages? This year’s version of the Edelman Trust survey has some interesting insights in this regard (see slide 21).

OPPORTUNITIES

Recognizing that the dissatisfaction among voters has the potential to color their relationships as customers and employees is a step that can help safeguard organizational credibility in volatile times. At the same time, the current political climate presents an opportunity for organizations to address pressing issues that could strengthen their relationships, and draw more heavily on the credibility of line employees as channels and advocates. Organizations should not ignore the changes in the political environment, and there may be opportunities to seize by looking at the broader picture.

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Taking aim at conventional “employee engagement” thinking on ICology podcast

My “six forms*” of engagement approach, challenging traditional employee engagement thinking, takes center stage with my first ever podcast interview.  The interview, part of the popular ICology podcast interview series hosted by Chuck Gose, can be found on the Podbean service here. It is also available via iTunes and other popular download points.

*Nominations have come in for two additional engagement forms–employees who focus on being part of a workplace community, and those focus on creating community in the workplace.  Others may surface – but in the meantime, the willingness to challenge the idea of employee engagement as a linear, one-size-fits-all and numeric concept is highly appreciated.

 

 

 

 

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Can #internalcomms become a “weapon of mass disruption”?

For the last two years, the most prevalent words I have seen in the communication world have been “digital” and “disruption.”  For the most part, the talk about each involved extolling the virtues of “digitalization” and “disruptiveness,” with much less tangible said about how to bring these qualities to life in a way that adds meaning or value.

Having recently set out on my own as a consultant focusing mainly on internal communication, my primary aim has been to disrupt commonplace notions about “how to do” #internalcomms.  But in a short but memorable moment, my thoughts drifted towards how internal comms could itself become a force for disruption, holding the key to scaling, driving and delivering disruptive interventions on an enterprise-wide scale.

The key to seeing internal communication as a “weapon of mass disruption” is really to look at the nature of both of these terms, “mass” and “disruption.”  

Mass

Internal comms embodies “mass” from an enterprise perspective in a number of crucial and complementary ways.  The first, the way leaders commonly see internal communication, involves “mass delivery” of messages to all employees.  The ability to “seize the radio stations,” harmonize the telescreens, and instantly distribute centrally-initiated messages in text, video, and/or audio formats remains one of an organization’s core tools to set, reinforce, or introduce changes in tone and direction.  

But traditional “mass delivery” is not the only “mass” capability that internal communication can offer an organization with some appetite for disruptive interventions.  Today, “mass selectivity” and “mass connectivity” can both amplify and target the power of interventions and new ideas.  And “mass standardization” can make interventions and the wording of their definitions clear and consistently understood.

“Mass standardization” accelerates mass delivery by applying consistent terminology (and, in some cases, narrative and imagery) to specify and shape a favored idea and frame its intended impact.

“Mass selectivity” involves the ability to identify, connect and mobilize the “right” people to enable a particular disruption to spread.  Whether using social mapping, influencer research, or ad hoc analysis to form a core group that connects the hierarchy with the important informal “tribes” and connective functions in an organization, the ability to select and build a core group allows a disruptive idea to incubate and generate emotional power and commitment among those who are responsible for its initial spread.

The contagion of this emotional commitment can often be accelerated by means of “mass connectivity.”  Mass connectivity combines natural word of mouth as it spreads orally within teams, organizations and communities, and the networked power of external social networks and, where functioning, enterprise social networks inside the company firewall.

Disruption

Internal communication’s ability to reach organizational populations through mass distribution, orchestrated influence and active agitation and connectivity is matched, if not exceeded, by what #internalcomms can do to shape, and even create, disruption itself.

What is disruption? Let’s look at what American dictionary Merriam Webster has to say. The verb “to disrupt” means “to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way: to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something).”

So, what does that mean for internal communications? Webster’s definition underscores the importance of internal communication in spreading disruption, so that disruptive changes stick and processes and practices are “unable to continue in the normal way.”  Our understanding of our enterprises, markets and communities with our fluency in unleashing the mass dynamics of what make disruptions accelerate and stick makes us a formidable, perhaps even indispensable asset.

But our involvement isn’t simply limited to spreading disruption.  We are also in a position to initiate it, to cause it.  Rather than simply act as a vehicle for leaders who have disruptive agendas and need their ideas spread, we can identify, shape and even invent disruptive ideas on our own, and work with stakeholders to  accelerate the flow of these disruptive ideas to the net benefit of our organizations.

New ideas, new practices, new promises, new words, new rules.  We can spread them, and we can create them (and then spread them).  We have the capability to commit mass disruption.

And mass disruption offers us a massive opportunity to change the terms.

Changing The Terms is a communication consulting practice focused on helping organizations improve alignment, differentiation and performance.

* For insights into how internal communication can address internal influence, differentiation and employee activism, sign up for a free guide at https://changingtheterms.com/internal-communication-guides/

* To download my book, “From Lincoln to LinkedIn – the 55 Minute Guide to Social Communication” visit https://changingtheterms.com/book/

* To schedule a free 30 minute consultation, visit https://calendly.com/changingtheterms/30min

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Six Forms of Engagement now on Ragan.com

Ragan.com, the popular site for communicators of a variety of professional persuasions, has picked up the latest version of my piece on “Six Forms” of employee engagement.

In challenging the notion that employee engagement is a single, all-encompassing, one-size-fits-all measure of employee positivity, proactivity,  anticipated longevity and other associated virtues, the Six Forms of Engagement offer the opportunity to tap into the different ways people engage with their organizations and work to get better outcomes.

The article can be found here, at the Ragan.com site in the USA.

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The State of the Sector: are internal communicators missing something big?

Not long ago, London-based internal communication consultancy Gatehouse published its eighth annual “State of the Sector” survey looking at how internal comms practitioners are experiencing their roles and how they use their time, money and energy.

Having spent the last four years in an in-house comms role, none of the conclusions particularly surprised me. Practitioners these days are focused on “digital,” channel management and event management, in pursuit of informing people about corporate strategy and, to a lesser extent, supporting the ongoing push for “employee engagement,” whatever that might exactly be.

They are worried about their budget levels and dabbling with a range of measurement tools in order to have some facts that can justify sustaining at least part of those budgets. But what the Gatehouse survey does not touch is any effort to sharpen the impact of internal communication by identifying and focusing on high-value and high-impact individuals and audiences within their organizations.

Whether this is a simple omission in the Gatehouse methodology or a major gap in current practice is a question I will leave open for now. But when at 28% of survey respondents anticipate taking a budget hit this year, the question of whether one can drive more impact with fewer dollars, euros or pounds is one that ought to be on most communicators’ radar screens.

Now, to answer that question, a few other questions are worth asking:

  • Does the 80-20 rule have an equivalent in internal communication?

According to Innovisor, a Copenhagen-based niche consultancy specializing in identifying and mapping the relationships between formal and informal leaders in organizations, the internal comms equivalent actually reflects a 3%-90% rule, where three percent of a company’s population has the ability to drive and influence conversations reaching 90% of employees.

These three percent are not merely senior leaders at the top of the pyramid, but the internal experts, role models and social networkers who combine high connectivity with high credibility to move and validate messages, official and otherwise.

  • Isn’t it more difficult or expensive to find the right people than to just focus on everyone?

The process of identifying an organization’s most influential employees and, if desired, mapping out their connections and their spheres of influence, is a task that requires actual work, either through a survey where employees identify their key personal and professional contacts in the workplace, or, less precisely, through a combination of interviews, desk research and management input.

Once found, the list of influencers and their maps of connections and influence have to be updated in a manner reflecting the level of change, turnover and organizational momentum. But even factoring the degree of work involved in developing definitive lists and maps, the opportunity for saving money, reducing noise and increasing impact is immense.

  • Isn’t this a function of management and not internal communication?

A sharpened focus on high impact employees and audiences isn’t the same thing as a focus on high-status employees. Top-down communication may remain the gold standard for delivering authoritative pronouncements, but employees look to select peers and experts to define, sanity check and contextualize those messages. This is an approach that combines management with management in a powerful, integrated way.

  • Has anyone actually done this successfully?

Selective engagement, which focuses on identifying, connecting and mobilizing key individuals, whether through Innovisor’s approach to social mapping, or Leandro Herrero’s Viral Change approach, is an increasingly popular and efficient way of making things happen in organizations and communities.

In doing such an excellent job of identifying what internal comms leaders and practitioners are doing and focusing on, Gatehouse does a massive service to the IC community.

And in highlighting such a gap in the arena of audience focus, Gatehouse, perhaps inadvertently, has created an opportunity for internal comms pros – and those who employ us – to look at how they can engage more selectively, and in so doing, increase their impact while making better use of money and organizational bandwidth.

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#CreateConnection: IABC wins with high touch over high tech

I have been an IABC member since 2001. And, for much of the last 15 years, I have been both a member and a critic.

I am a critic no longer. #CreateConnection is the reason why.

A number of years ago, IABC was in a bit of turmoil. As an internal communicator, I naturally found the turmoil interesting and used my membership as an entrance ticket to participate in it. Much of the turmoil was around personality issues at play at the time, but a thread of it was around IABC’s alternatives for future growth.

A few of us supported a virtual and digital approach, seeing IABC’s traditional focus on face to face events and local chapters to be too high-maintenance and difficult to sustain. But IABC instead doubled down on high-touch over high-tech, and embarked on an approach (hashtagged #createconnection) that emphasized the strengthening of its core offering with secondary emphasis on the virtual and digital side.

I was skeptical. But following my recent flight of blog postings and all of the sharing and retweeting I’ve seen in the last few weeks, I came to realize that IABC has nailed it with #createconnection.

There may be 100,000 or more business communications pros in the world. Most of us are already connected digitally on Twitter and LinkedIn and other online forums. Indeed, there are more than twice as many members of IABC’s LinkedIn group as there are members of IABC. But in large part, the people who’ve actually been connecting with me have been IABC members around the world—sharing, retweeting and asking questions.

More remarkable was that most of these members are not people I’ve met at conferences or other events. Even with a seemingly analog strategy focusing on local face-to-face activity, IABC members are rapidly connecting globally into a potent digital force. As for those I have met, the involvement has been particularly strong—ranging from challenging but respectful input from Jim Shaffer, one of IABC’s (and the world’s) most respected authorities on business communication, and an article encouraging members of IABC Montreal to read one of my recent blog posts.

Indeed, even if you can’t commit to attending IABC’s many excellent global and regional events, the global community that is IABC is increasingly relevant and accessible, wherever you are. If you want to learn from your peers, or if you have some thoughts about the future of our profession and want to move them forward, there has never been a better time to join IABC.

It’s time to #createconnection. It’s time for IABC.

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From “engagement” to performance: KPMG decision gives a historic break to business communicators

For the last ten-plus years, the God called “employee engagement” has reigned supreme over all of the so-called “people fields” and, for the most part, swept up internal communication in its wake.

This week’s news that KPMG has not only abandoned its employee survey but repudiated the notion of “employee engagement” as having any causal relationship with performance, represents a historical opening for practitioners and businesses alike.  It is a golden chance to shift the focus away from driving “engagement” numbers and towards how effective business communication can directly improve performance.

The logic is obvious

At a basic level the logic is obvious. Effective, strategic internal communication can reduce ambiguity and increase clarity.

Good internal comms can align definitions of processes and objectives, and illustrate examples of good and bad practice. It can inject external perspectives while driving internal consistency. It can help identify people who have added impact as informal leaders and institutional lynchpins. Less obviously, it can be a vehicle for catalyzing consensus and even for the development of projects and products that are easier to execute or sell because of communicator involvement.  These are things that can move the needle in a business, even if they don’t line up with some “engagement” survey.

KPMG’s decision represents a historic opportunity, to begin the long-overdue uncoupling of the business communication profession from the engagement industry. Seizing that opportunity will change the terms.

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Unpacking the Pravda Principle, looking beyond “engagement”

Last week, I published my first internal communications blog post in quite a while, The Pravda Principle.

It was a kind of shoot-from-the-hip exercise, based on an idea that had been rolling around my head for years—the paradox of why Pravda, long mocked and despised by Westerners as the epitome of propaganda and falsehood was, in essence, a highly successful internal communication channel and one from which today’s practitioners can learn.

Part of my reason for invoking Pravda as a positive example is that I see internal comms as being a stuck discipline, focused excessively on the nebulous goal of “increasing employee engagement (however it may be defined),” and seeing “the answer” in the adoption of increasingly visual and technically intricate channels.

But is the production of infotainment to drive employee happiness numbers really the only viable or legitimate use of a set of skills, thinking and tactics which are capable of driving other, more tangible organizational objectives? Or are we off track?

Some questions to ponder:

  • Is it all about attractiveness?

The pressure on communicators today is to produce stuff that is attractive and digestible to the least committed stakeholder. But Pravda wasn’t attractive, visual or digital.  It’s appeal was that it was authoritative: it reliably provided useful information.  Is there space left for internal comms vehicles that are authoritative in style and tone, helping stakeholders who need real information to get and understand the information they need? Are “all employees” really equally important?

  • Are “all employees” really equally important?

In large organizations, there may be certain things, particularly like brand promises, that have to be internalized by all employees.  But the extent to which individual employees can influence the definition of strategy and the leverage each has to impact its success varies profoundly. Given the relatively limited sums corporations spend on internal comms, shouldn’t its priorities lean towards helping smaller numbers of higher-value employees have more quantifiable impact, rather than try to move engagement survey numbers?

  • Isn’t sender-focused communication useful sometimes?

In today’s internal comms, there’s an assumption that the only purpose of publishing content is to entertain or “engage” large numbers of readers and that the needs of the “sender” must be secondary.  But if one can get three massive stakeholders to agree a cohesive story about how they will align their objectives and how they intend to work together, and publish it to the organization; the value of reduced friction, ambiguity and delay could more than justify a communicator’s salary even if no one outside the stakeholder teams reads the story.

While there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with the idea of “engaged,” happy employees, I sense that the pursuit of “engagement über alles” has dominated the field to such an extent that other approaches and objectives are seen as secondary – or in some cases, even as not being worth offering to otherwise deserving stakeholders.

Recognizing and championing alternative approaches and objectives could profoundly change the terms.

 

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The Pravda Principle

The Pravda Principle: is clarifying and formalizing the “official truth” the true purpose of Internal Communication?

Back in the old days in Russia, in many cities and neighborhoods, at metro stops and bus stops, there used to be glass cases housing copies of the current issue of Pravda.

Pravda, which meant “truth” in Russian, was often mocked in the West by those who claimed that its name belied a lack of actual factual content. Yet, Pravda remained the country’s biggest newspaper, avidly read by purchasers and those souls who gathered around those glass cases.

Because for those readers, Pravda was the truth—the daily, official version of the truth, to be specific. Encyclopedia Britannica described Pravda’s mission as “seeking to encourage unity of thought on the part of its readers by stressing and interpreting the party line.” Or, more to the point, the official version of the truth.

While a whole industry has emerged to push a role for internal communicators as corporate cheerleaders, employee-wellbeing advocates and large-scale event planners in recent years, the role of working with stakeholders to analyze ambiguous issues, helping resolve them by framing coherent stories and defensible rationales, and integrating these stories into the “official truth” is the most valuable role we play, in my view.

Of course, this turns the current thinking about internal comms on its head. It focuses on the role of the content itself rather than the needs of the reader, especially when it emphasizes bits of the official truth which have high impact on relatively small groups of people. But why shouldn’t helping small groups of people align common approaches to high-value problems be as important as stimulating high readership among large numbers of employees with low decision-making authority or influence?

Large organizations are often chaotic, with lots of agendas, leaders, priorities and initiatives, relatively few with a mass audience of their own. But when internal communicators have the license to work with stakeholders and create stories that address and clarify ambiguities, we have the ability to continually create and reinforce that corporate story, and in so doing, accelerate the resolution of business problems.

Ironically internal communicators and internal communication channels are often mocked for being “Pravda-like.”

But these taunts criticize internal comms for excessive cheerleading and misplaced positivity rather than for taking on the serious business of helping stakeholders define the “official truth” and clarifying where employees stand and what they need to do.

In my view, our role should be much more Pravda-like. By focusing on clarifying “official truth,” we help leaders and employees know where they stand and what is expected of them, and provide a clear starting point for further conversation. If that isn’t the proper focus of internal communication, what is?

[MK1]

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Wonderloop: The Future of Intranets in 20 Seconds or Less?

Having been involved with the birth and launch of a social intranet for the last two years (and other stillborn efforts beforehand) an enduring disappointment has been the inability to convince people to register and complete even a brief biographical profile that would allow other users to learn more about those people than simply “name, rank, and serial number.”

But an app I learned of at the recent EACD European Communication Summit struck me as a potential game-changer.  It’s called Wonderloop, and is based on a radically different view of the optimal profile—a video clip of 20 seconds and a collection of tags, which allow users to be identified, searched and connected with people with common interests, or who seek expertise.

While some profiles, including the ones on my company’s intranet, take minutes to complete and require at least semi-competent English writing ability to avoid lasting embarrassment, Wonderloop’s system makes it easy to re-use existing tags, minimizing the impact of bad terminology and bad spelling, while allowing a user to establish a presence quickly and cleanly. Built-in messaging complements a tag-based search engine.

One clear downside is the variable quality of the video selfie, though one’s video clip is easy to replace and update.

To be sure, Wonderloop faces challenges.  Currently, it is only available as an iPhone app, rendering it incompatible with nearly all existing intranet platforms, and with everyone who doesn’t kneel at the Apple altar.  It is a true start-up, whose Norwegian founder, Hanna Aaase, has had to encounter one of the most formidable barriers to initiative and perseverance imaginable, the infamous Scandinavian phenomenon called the Janteloven, reflected in the rejection of a government grant application on the grounds that the Wonderloop idea “was too ambitious.”

Wonderloop is not excessively ambitious in and of itself—a simple combination of short videos, tags, messaging and other allied features like favoriting and introduction.  But adding 20 second videos could make a people search or a search for subject experts far more interesting, and make today’s intranets more ambitious, and far more engaging.

If you do kneel at the altar of Apple, and have an iPhone, you can try out Wonderloop by downloading it at the iPhone App Store and registering your account details inside the app. Upon approval, you can then move about the site. 

wonderloop

Insights

Do-Know-Feel: Relevance Trumps Awareness

Having built my communication career mainly on the learnings I have obtained on the job, first as a political consultant and then as an internal communicator,  I have largely been spared a lot of the models and paradigms delivered through formal communication training. 

So, about 11 years ago,  while I was managing the internal communication for an airline merger,  I was a bit taken aback when my client, having recently completed some internal comms ninja-training course, cited a long-standing model and wanted me to apply it in my work.

“It’s about ‘know, feel, do’, Mike,” she said.  “What people should know, how they should feel, and then, what they should do.”

For some reason, that never sat well with me.  It still doesn’t, and when I heard someone say “it’s not ‘know, feel, do,’ but ‘do, know, feel,'”* it made perfect sense to me.

(* I apologize for forgetting the individual who shared this insight–please feel free to claim credit if you are reading this)

Do-know-feel is actually the basis for selective engagement and the kind of internal communication based on social analysis–where messaging and message volumes are channelled on the basis of driving relevance, action and performance rather than increasing awareness and approval for the sake of awareness and approval.

“DO”

The first step is to determine what the various individuals in the audience or organization actually need to do: what tasks they need to accomplish, what roles they need to fulfill.  

Such roles can range from:

Sponsor

Change Leader

Project Manager

Someone whose day job will incorporate related activities

Someone who will not be directly involved but will need to accommodate related activities

Someone who will be affected by a change but will otherwise not participate in its implementation

Total bystander

“KNOW”

The next step:  assess the factual content required to allow these individuals to fulfill their roles.

Having already assessed the “do” for each individual, it becomes much easier to ensure that the right people get the right level of detailed information, and that people who are less involved don’t get inundated with information that they are likely to find excessive, irrelevant and, often, irritating.  

While that may sound obvious,  such an approach often faces opposition from senior managers who insist that everyone must know everything about their “top priority” initiative because it is their  top priority, even when it clearly is not each employee’s top priority.  

While I once successfully challenged a CEO when he demanded a specified frequency of articles on his top project when the content relevance and ripeness did not warrant it, documenting that communication approach is based on relevance rather than awareness makes such a challenge easier to deliver.

“FEEL”

Aside from the general inability of internal communicators to successfully and sustainably dictate employee emotions,  another reason for making emotion the third level of the do-know-feel approach is that the desired emotional response is different for people with different tasks.

It may be sufficient for a total bystander to get a robust sense of the context and rationale for change,  but people who are more directly involved with specfic responsibilities and impacts will face a broader range of triggers for their emotional reactions.  

For instance,  where there are personnel changes, the senior managers deciding the scope of the changes, the managers and HR staff implementing the changes, the employees whose roles would disappear and those whose roles would face reconfiguration will all have different emotional needs and require highly distinct messaging and support. 

NOT JUST SEGMENTATION

Some may look at do-know-feel and just see an alternative approach to audience segmentation.  But I would argue that there is more to it.  Do-know-feel is also a clear basis for driving more selective, efficient and effective approaches to internal communication, employee engagement, and change communication, based on relevance rather than driving awareness.  It not only offers a means for driving communication focus on those who can have the most impact, but also on reducing the sense of overload and over-prioritization felt by employees who actually have better things to do.  By doing so, do-know-feel changes the terms.