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Messaging – more important than ever

In a world where our colleagues have access to so many channels, clarity about messages is essential if we can hope to have impact says author and consultant Liam FitzPatrick.

I recently did a simple audit of comms channels for an international organisation and was struck by the massive volume of channels available.When I started in PR and Comms a million years ago, we had the noticeboard, the magazine and the rather ropey team briefing. Even email wasn't really a force in employee comms until the mid 1990s.

Since those simpler times we have the arrival of the intranet, then the ubiquitous electronic noticeboard and it's snowballed from there. Colleagues working at my recent client were merrily using Slack, Sharepoint, Teams, yammer, Medium, a handful of apps and were still being bombarded with a ton of email everyday.

No one seemed bothered that many of these tools effectively did the same thing. More is apparently better for some people. The problem was that engagement scores were through the floor and despite a fantastic wellbeing programme no one really knew about it.

But when a colleagues can hear about an initiative from multiple sources, what is to ensure that they get the message intended to be delivered? We run the risk of smothering our workforces in confusion.

I recently found with one client that a massive investment in developing talent just wasn't being appreciated. The creation of new processes for assessing personal development needs, the launching of new, expensive learning programmes and forums for showcasing epic work were not recognised as an attempt to make careers more rewarding.

Rather, a continual flow of breathless announcements from different parts of the Human Capital organisation were lost without a consistent narrative. My contact had been asked for a logo but had been quick to point the need for a clear storyline.

A nicely coloured device that would wind up the brand team wasn't going to cut it!

As communicators we have the constant challenge of trying to land a message that is clear and which stands out amid the flurry of information that our colleagues are exposed to. Yet at the same time, some research which I did with IC Plan last year suggested that message planning is a low priority for many communicators.

Some of us are too oppressed by the need to generate content and keep our stakeholders happy to call time out. If we want to get away from being noise makers and become sense creators we need to concentrate more on the message before we think about the channel or the process.

It's not something that crops up on many courses and looking at the 2020 edition of one of the leading texts books, it doesn't seem to be written about very much apart from story-telling theory. We have a lot to learn from our colleagues in the creative fields but it shouldn't be left to our designer colleagues to remind us that clarity of message is a central part of our domain.

I'm running a webinar for the IoIC on 28 June and I'm hoping a few people will share their practice with us.I have my own way of doing it, but I'd love to hear how you tackle it.

At the IoIC webinar on 28 June we’ll be exploring what makes for great messaging.
How to Implement Policies Around Communication
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