Lisa Turnbull, communications manager
When it comes to the creation of employee communication campaigns, it can be really tempting to just dive straight in. Whether this is due to short timescales, other projects putting demands on our time or simply our eagerness to get the campaign under way, the planning part of the process is often left a little behind.
But without this stage, how do you know if it’s even going to work?
Whenever I execute a communications campaign I am constantly checking the plan to make sure that we’re on track and we’re achieving our objectives.
But the truth is, running a communications campaign is a little bit of a science experiment. It’s all about the tests you run before (and during!) that will help bring your communications campaign success.
Test 1: Do your messages fit your objectives?
Before I start any communications plan I always begin by listing my objectives – what do I really want to achieve with this plan? What do I want people to do with this information?
Objectives could be related to the message you want to convey, but they can also relate to how you want people to feel or what you want them to do. Where possible I build my objectives around measurable results so right from the very start I have at least a rough plan of how I’m going to know if the communications have been successful.
After I set the objectives these become the bedrocks of my campaign which I refer back to constantly, and never more importantly when creating the messaging. After writing your content take a step back and measure it against your objectives to see how it’s going to get you to your goals. Does it fit the whole profile, or do you need to make any tweaks?
Test 2: Put yourself in their shoes
Something we’ve all done (or at least I hope it’s not just me!) is to build our campaign based on what you want to tell people rather than what people will want to know. This is a classic slip up that can easily happen when the planning stage is rushed but something that can be remedied with a little bit of role play…
Put yourself in your employees’ shoes and think about how they will react to the message you send out. Ask yourself:
- Do your communications give them a reason to care?
- Are you communicating with them in the right way at the right time?
- Are there any other external influencers which might influence their reaction to the message? (Examples could include an upcoming pay review or press coverage of the organisation.)
An important part of this test is to consider your employees’ reactions, both the positive and the negative. If you can craft a message that will speak to even the most hard-to-reach employee you’ll be taking one big step forward to achieving your goals.
Test 3: Check, check and check again!
In a perfect world, we’d all have heaps of time to produce our communications campaigns but sadly for the most of us we’re racing against the clock to meet a deadline. It can be really tempting to hit send the moment you’ve finished writing the content, but my biggest piece of advice is to always take the time to proofread your work — as many times as it takes to get it perfect.
After creating any communications piece, step away from it and take another look later on. Even if it’s just an hour later, you’ll get a fresh approach that can make all the difference when working to get something just right. Put content into context, such as testing how an email reads on your smartphone or putting that poster up on the wall opposite your desk to see if it still stands out from afar. Triple check for spelling, grammar, any little mistakes that could undermine all the hard work you’re doing, as well as of course checking against your objectives.
And if you don’t have the time to spare to fully step away from the work? You can always ask a colleague to proofread for you to get another pair of eyes on the communication before it heads out the door.
Test 4: Don’t forget about your focus groups
This test works nicely with Test 2 in terms of helping you understand exactly what your employees will want and need. Put together a focus group that represent different parts of your organisation and ask them what they think. This can be done at all stages of the campaign, from the earliest message development, choice of media, test-runs and employee feedback post release. This group are going to be your new best friend.
It’s important with any focus group that you include people with different perspectives to help you create a well-rounded campaign, so make sure you have a few of the more difficult employees as well as the ones who are super quick to jump on board. None of us like negative feedback but it is really important to hear it— after all, just because they don’t say those things in front of us doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it, and if you know about the less positive opinions you can cater for them in your campaign. It’s all about overcoming barriers to engagement and this is a crucial step in getting it right.
Test 5: Measure your success against your goals
Not every test takes place before the campaign goes out — it’s also really important to test the results as well. This will tell you whether your campaign has been successful but will also provide crucial learnings that you can then apply to any comms project in the future.
This is where you come back to your objectives again. Choose metrics that reflect the objectives to get a clear idea of campaign success, put also look at measurables relating to your choice of media such as open rates, click throughs, page views and enquiries made.
Test 6: Employee feedback
The final, and perhaps most important, test is what your people actually think. In addition to your focus groups, employee feedback will be like gold in helping you understand the success of your campaign, both in terms of understanding the message but also as to choices of channel, timing and other reactions.
There are many ways you can gather feedback, from full-scale surveys through to speaking to people individually around the organisation. Whatever you do make sure you document it so you easily have the responses to hand when planning your next campaign, which with this approach is sure to be even better than the last.