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Communication guidelines

If we precede any communications exercise by answering the few key questions listed on
this first page, we will all be better placed to meet our objectives effectively.

The writer Rudyard Kipling famously described the questions as his “six honest serving
men”. They can be ours too.

He wrote:

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

The Elephant’s Child

So, to communicate effectively, we should first be able to answer the questions:

1. Why are we communicating? (Purpose).

2. Who are we communicating with? (Audience).

3. What are the key messages we need to be understood? (Use the serving men).

4. When is the best time to do this? (Appropriate & timely).

5. How should we communicate for best effect? (Method).

6. Where is the best place? (Location).

The more detailed guidelines that follow have been drawn from the CORA
Communications Toolkit available on Interact and supplemented with some external
advice on delivering effective communications.

The materials in this toolkit should act as a resource as we try to provide an opportunity
for people to hear about and discuss our vision, strategy and transformation plans –
including the reasons for change and the proposals for implementation.


Why? – Purpose of communication

• Clearly state the business need for communication.

• What is your goal for this communication?

Who? – Define your audience

• To what degree does the audience know and understand the issue?

• What do you want your audience to do because of this message?

• What new attitudes, perceptions and behaviours will the audience need to adopt to be
and feel successful?

• For the audience, are there any specific factors that you need to be aware of?
(i.e. levels of cynicism, shift work, cultural differences)

What? – Key messages

• What does the audience need to know?

• Create clarity - define your message with each audience in mind.

• What do you want to tell your audience?

• Where can the audience go for more information?

• What’s In It For Me message?

When? – Timing

• Will your message compete unnecessarily with or be impacted by other events?

• Is it ever too late to communicate?

How? – Methods

• What tools are available to use?

• Face to Face: changes behaviour

• Written: best for learning complicated information

• Intranet: best for short, quick information retrieval

• What tools are most effective to reach your audience?

Where? – Venue

• Hallway vs. Boardroom vs. offsite

• What offers less distraction?

Delivering the Key Messages:

• Familiarise yourself with each message so you can restate it, unaided, in your own
words. Ideally you should have only 3-5 key messages to deliver.

• Bring messages to life by discussing why the information is important to you and
sharing examples or experiences.

• Avoid repeating jargon or vague, ambiguous language. Find a way to state the
message simply or don’t say it at all.

• Focus on the aspects of the message which address employees’ interests or concerns,
based on your knowledge of what occupies their minds.


• Provides sample questions and recommended responses incorporating key and

subsidiary messages.

• Separate Q&A documents may be produced along with ways to address more specific


Knowledge and feelings of current state:

• How well do people understand what exists today?

• Do they view the status quo positively, neutrally or negatively?

• What perceptions shape their beliefs?

Potential reaction to change:

• Does the change introduce real or perceived outcomes?

• Does the change mean new responsibilities?

Advice on communicating the change:

• What’s likely to delight and disappoint people?

• How should the change be introduced?

• What will be the principle communication challenge?

• What may be confusing or unclear?

Engaging employees during change

Companies must recognise, reward and reinforce the motivation of people, or risk a loss
of involvement and interest in the process of implementing change.

While changes require a clear strategic vision, change leaders need to cultivate that in the
behaviour of their employees. According to some experts, behaviour which is inconsistent
with change objectives can become a major obstacle to company growth.

Change leaders can utilise a variety of tactics to encourage behavioural change, some
examples of these are listed below:

• Alleviate anxiety and encourage participation in change by involving people in the

change process

• Establish a clear link between employee’s work and company objectives

• Identify change resisters through careful performance monitoring and try to overcome
their resistance

• Facilitate behavioural change by aligning compensation systems with the strategic
vision: employees should be held accountable for helping the organisation achieve the
objectives of its change effort. Ideally, senior management will articulate the key role
of employees in the change’s success or failure early in the change process. Specific
performance objectives of the change effort should be tied to employee reward

• Use facilitation techniques for mobilising teams.

Top tips for taking people with you in change

• Prepare - Show me the big picture - What will success look like? What will be
expected of me?

• Motivate - Highlight what's in it for me, how will things be different? What will be the
impact on my role and responsibilities?

• Involve - Listen to my perspective, value my input and feedback, engage me

• Enable - Train me, build my confidence, provide tools and resources, support and help

• Reward & Recognise - Acknowledge changes I make, provide feedback, manage my

performance, celebrate success.

The role of communication

Communication is key to successful change management.

It is often useful to remind change teams that people attend far more to the way in which
you communicate than to the words themselves.

A number of vital questions to address during the change management process:

• Why is the change needed? Why is it needed in this way, time and place?

• What processes, structures, goals and standards will change?

• Who should communicate about the change?

• How will the company know if this change has been successful?

• When will key changes occur and when will messages be communicated?

It is important to spend time upfront trying to anticipate important questions and
concerns that are likely to be raised, so that you can be ready to give people the answers
and information they need.


• Communicate in a timely manner: even when communicating unfavourable news,

straightforward and timely internal communications will ease the fears and doubts of
employees, as employees seek honest answers from management.

• Communicate clearly, frequently and consistently: be as open as you can and tell the
truth: communicate clearly and honestly with employees throughout the change
process, demonstrate continuous appreciation for each individual. Equally, look for
opportunities to reinforce, giving the same message consistently and often.

• Communicate business necessity - build a powerful and compelling case: individuals must
understand why an organisation is facing a period of change and they must buy into
their company’s change management efforts. Communicate the 'people' implications
of upcoming organisational change, including what the changes will mean for
employees’ positions within the company and how they will be taken care of should a
significant change occur.

• Communicate personally: employees must be told how the change will affect them
personally. Individual concerns should be addressed. Senior and middle management
must be trained to ensure they have the skills to provide essential information to
employees in an effective and timely manner.

• Tune in to different stakeholder groups’ needs and preferences: communication activities

should always be targeted at discrete audiences (or stakeholders) wherever possible.
Consider the outputs of any stakeholder analysis when thinking about communication
needs or preferences. Establish ‘core’ messages that will be communicated to
everyone, but feel free to change the level of detail, phraseology, processes and
activities to suit the preferences of each audience.

• Use plain and simple language: see “Top tips for good writing” in this toolkit.

• Be creative: different types of communication activity can be used to achieve different

outcomes. You need to use a variety of channels and techniques to get the attention of
your target audiences.

• Focus on the benefits of change: ie what’s in it for me (and for the business)?

• Build in a feedback loop: despite your best efforts, the message you intend to transmit
may not always be the one that is picked up by the recipient. It's crucial in change to
ensure that you put in place a mechanism to check what the audience have heard and
if they have any questions or require further clarification. This can be done for example
by encouraging people to ask questions, formal Q&A sessions or a simple feedback
questionnaire. The examples of questions you may want them to answer are:

• How well do you understand the reasons for the change?

• How satisfied are you with the extent and clarity of the information you have
received about the change?

• How clearly do you see how you will fit into the change?

• How anxious are you about the change?

• How much of an opportunity do you see the change presenting for you?

• How strongly do you support the change?

• How much support do you feel you have received to cope with the change?

Key Messages

A 2003 Prosci study into best practices in change management, which investigated
51 companies, found that the most important messages to deliver to impacted
employees were:

• The current situation and the rationale for the change

• A vision of the organisation after the change takes place

• The basics of what is changing, how it will change and when it will change

• The expectation that change will happen and is not a choice

• Status updates on the implementation of the change, including success stories

• The impact of the change on the day to day activities of the employee and their job
security. What's in it for me? What specific behaviours and activities are expected
from me?

• Procedures for getting help and assistance during the change.

Channels – guide to strengths and weaknesses

This tool will help you identify the most appropriate communication channels for key
messages and audiences. Specifically it will help you to answer the questions:

• Which channels are most appropriate for the type of messages I am sending (are my
messages sensitive, complex, urgent etc)?

• Which channels are most appropriate for the level of engagement (intensity of impact)
I want with my audience?

• Which channels can my budget support?

• Which channels can best reach my target audience(s)?

Channels - strengths and weaknesses

(group meetings; one on one meetings; team briefings; conferences; presentations; speeches;
roadshows; workshops; seminars)

Strengths Weaknesses
• Attracts attention – an `event’ • May only reach a small proportion of
each target audience
• Potential for high emotional impact
and engagement • Risk of confrontation or disruption by
opposing groups
• Potential for high retention of impact
messages (research tells us we retain • Audience has no permanent record of
50 per cent of what we see and hear; what has been said, so not good for
70 per cent of what we discuss; 80 retention of detailed or complex
per cent of what we experience…) messages
• Brings issues to life • Potentially costly for large events
• Opportunities for two-way • Time consuming for the audience in
communication, for example terms of attending and travelling to
questions and answers the event

(magazines; newsletters; manuals; guides; handouts; brochures; reports; posters; briefing packs)

Strengths Weaknesses
• Can be cost-effective for large print • Can be expensive for small print runs
• Low potential for engagement
• Can be targeted to individuals, for
• Low retention levels (we retain only
example through direct mail
10% of what we read)
• Can convey more detailed or complex
• Risk of misinterpretation because the
audience cannot ask questions
• Can use diagrams, photos and immediately
pictures to build understanding and
• Long production lead time
create interest
• Is a popular medium so will compete
with many other similar print pieces

(intranet; website; video; online conference; CD/DVD; email; telephone/SMS/voicemail)

Strengths Weaknesses
• Can be fast, immediate and targeted, • Mass e-communication , e.g. email,
for example email and SMS can be perceived as impersonal
• Can bring together the strengths of • Can be seen as intrusive, for example
different media, for example using unwelcome phone calls or email
CDs to capture the big emotional `spam’
messages on video, while giving the
• Websites are expensive to set up and
detail in documents
maintenance is resource intensive
• Web and Interact sites can be quick
• Relies on the target audiences having
and easy to update
the right equipment, e.g. a computer
• Are not affected by the costs and time to visit a website
delays involved in the physical delivery
• Video can be very expensive to
of a message whether sending print or
produce, edit and distribute
organising an event