Corporate communications can sometimes be, well let’s face it… a little too corporate. Unless you work for a really cool company like Google, where new, exciting things are happening on a daily basis, you’re probably writing about some topics that don’t exactly stir the emotions of your employees. It becomes a challenge to communicate to them a stale topic and sell it as something about which they should be excited (or at least interested). But there are certain things you can do to bring a little more pop to news about a new project, initiative, system update, etc. Let’s look at a few.
Become a Semi-Expert
Most corporate communicators deal with a lot of content from multiple areas of the organization. So it’s hard to become the subject matter expert (SME) for any one given topic. But if you’re part of the project from the early stages, familiarity yields a second-nature knowledge that benefits your audience. If you’re not close to the topic or you haven’t done your homework, it’ll show in your work. Your explanations will seem labored and your readers will struggle to make sense of it. So get to be somewhat semi-SME for the topic about which you need to communicate. Get in on the project as early as possible, attend meetings, and talk with your SMEs regularly. It will help immensely in your translation to the layman.
Brand It When Possible
For topics related to a major initiative/project within your organization, it helps to label it with its own brand, for no other reason than efficiency. It’s much easier to refer to it as “Super Project X” than “the thing that’s going to help our company speed up our order fulfillment.” In addition, it can help to have a logo and certain style standards that make your communications stand out as something that deserves attention from employees.
I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to have a mascot created – “Alfred the Process Streamline Pelican,” for instance, might be a bad idea. You want to build familiarity without treating your audience like children. But if you feel it can help to have one, let your mascot flag fly. Just use judgment and test it out before launch. If your employees feel somewhat insulted, it’s a good idea to scrap the idea of assigning a character to your topic.
If your topic is complex or boring, you won’t get far in engaging your audience if you don’t make it relatable. Whenever working with a client in which the topic seemed to be way over my head – and most likely, employees would have the same reaction – I asked the SME to explain it to me as if I was five years old. That helped me get a better grasp of the subject matter and translate it to my audience through analogies: “Imagine if someone was trying to use your credit card number, and your bank alerted you to suspicious activity in real time. This is what Project X will accomplish through a series of system updates and process overhauls.” Real-life examples to which most people can relate go a long way to making sense of the topic.
Make the “Cool” Points Obvious
This is especially useful in written communications. If you’ve taken my advice about making your writing more easily readable, you’re probably using subheadlines to help guide the reader to the parts of your article that will interest them most. Here’s a chance to title a subheadline in such a way that lets the readers know that a particular paragraph or section is one to which they should really pay attention. It’s your way of saying, “I know I’ve gone through some high-level and technical information, but here’s the pay off… this is what makes Project X really cool!” If they don’t feel like going through the entire explanation of Project X, then at least they can know the main goal and why so much work is being put into it.
Do a Parody
Creating a video around a complex topic can go a long way to helping employees understand it. But if you just plop down (yes, I said ‘plop’) an executive in front of a camera and have her talk about it for three minutes, that’s probably not the most effective use of your video. Instead, go for entertainment.
When I was tasked with creating a video about my former organization’s company-wide transition to a new system platform, my one direction was to make it fun. So I thought about what format might be most effective at grabbing the attention of our employee population. Now, no offense to them, but talking with a lot of employees, for the most part they were folks who were probably watching TMZ rather than listening to NPR on a regular basis. Given my demographic, I did that sort of tabloid-report-style parody to explain different stages of the project.
When it came time to do a video for a process efficiency initiative within the organization, I faced a dilemma of how to present one particular story in an entertaining way. As the SME explained the success of one particular area of the company, I thought, “How can I possibly present this in a way that could be engaging?” I knew if I had someone discuss the process, it would put viewers to sleep. So it hit me – no talking. I did a parody of a silent film, and it was met with a lot of good feedback for its creativity.
The bottom line is that sometimes you need to stretch that creative part of your brain and come up with some outside of the box methods to present a boring topic in an entertaining way. Video helps you achieve exactly that, and parodies are a perfect way to engage your audience. Pick a particular film, show, or video you like and copy it or the style of it.
Tie It to a Contest
If you want to engage an audience, one tried-and-true method has always been to offer a chance to win a prize. When trying to get your employees to learn about a particular topic, an almost sure-fire way to achieve this goal is to incentivize them by presenting it with a contest. Offer a quiz related to your topic, and let the highest scorers earn a prize for their efforts. Of course, employees should be engaged in your communication because it helps them know more about their company, but we’re living in the real world. It only helps to offer incentives that increase the chances that they’ll pay more attention to your communications about the subject.
Hopefully these tips will help you in your quest to give your internal communications some proverbial ‘jazz hands.’ Have you found some other ways that help you make stale topics a little more lively and engaging? Let us know in the Comment section below.
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