Change happens. Just a fact. We’re often excited by it. Other times, not so much. But it’s always happening, in big and small ways, and it’s something that we’ve helped organizations get through so that they can continue to work toward their goals.
When preparing for change, organizations need to come up with a communications strategy. Because how they communicate that change (to their internal and external audiences) has the power to amplify whatever the benefits of that change are and also to control the message and the narrative.
We look at change as an opportunity. We like to try new things, solve problems, strengthen relationships… all things that are needed when you’re talking about communicating change.
Let’s take a look at three ways to better communicate your organization’s changes.
Strategy #1. Tell the Story of the Change
One of the most effective ways to communicate change is to tell it through a story. A story lets you guide your audience through the change process. You can help them understand where you’re going, why it’s happening, who benefits. We’ve talked before about how, used well, stories get your message across memorably. How they can spur action.
So, use stories when you’re communicating about change. Instead of overwhelming your audience with business jargon, data, and project plans, share a story that looks to the future, points to your vision, and features real people.
If your goal is to create confidence about the change, for example, tell a story that shows how your organization is up to the challenge. Or if you need to get complex information out there, then weave those details into a compelling story with emotional impact.
Stories are a valuable piece of your toolkit.
Strategy #2: Answer Proactively
One of the biggest challenges we all face when discussing or presenting change is addressing the questions that our stakeholders have. That’s why it’s essential to prepare potential questions and answers ahead of time. Talk to key stakeholders, frontline team members, leadership, anyone affected by the change whose thoughts you can tap for insight. During this process, you’ll find patterns of questions that come up — and you’ll probably get unexpected questions too.
Come up with answers to these questions before communicating with your larger audience. By having answers ready to go, you ensure that there’s clarity, create consistency, and inspire confidence. When we do this, we make sure that our partners’ messages are reinforced in the answers.
And going back to Strategy #1, we also identify stories that we can use to answer difficult questions.
Maybe all the questions won’t all come up in the end. But you’ll be better off going the extra mile to think through your answers anyway.
Strategy #3: Put a Face on It
Don’t just have the organization speak. Get real people. People that your audience can recognize, can get to know. These messengers can talk about the change at in-person meetings and video conferences, in emails and blog posts.
We’ve all been there: a company hides behind anonymity. There’s no names, no faces attached. It’s frustrating. But with a real person included, you can be authentic and you can strengthen relationships. As an example, a messenger who is familiar with the target audience and maybe already involved more closely can more effectively get your audience on board. They can empathize with concerns and persuade people of the overall value of the change.
It’s these kinds of connections that matter to your audience. They’re your threads that tie your audience to your organization. Threads that create accountability. Threads that pull your audience along for the journey.
Change is your opportunity to strengthen these connections, if you invest in them.
If you’re preparing for or going through a change right now, hang in there! Believe in the power of change.
Your audience is going to have a reaction to your change… positive, negative, probably everything in between. But with a communications strategy, you can help your audience understand how the change positively impacts your organization and its mission. You can take their perspective to heart so that you can empathize with them and build stronger connections.
And an effective communications program streamlines the process of change. It gets key information out there, shapes perception, and creates action — ultimately helping you achieve the goals driving the change.
What are some of your thoughts on how to communicate about organizational change? Let us know in the comments below!