What is the common factor behind all effective communications? There are of course many ways to answer this question but in this blog I want to look at the concept of value. By this I mean communication that has value not just to the people who initiate it but also, importantly, to the intended audience.
Why should they be interested?
The starting points for most communication planning tend to be business objectives, target outputs and outcomes, key messages, target audiences, appropriate channels and scheduling. A question that often doesn’t get asked at this stage is – why should the target audience be interested? Or put another way, what will the target audience perceive the value of this communication to be?
It is surprisingly easy for communications planners to forget this element or to take it for granted. A good example of this is when planning communications for a change programme. By its nature this type of communications tend to be top down, with the drivers of change coming from a senior level. From this perspective the focus is often on generating a set of key messages in line with the company’s strategic objectives. The expected value for senior management is clear; strategic changes and objectives will be communicated and employees will be motivated to join them in the brave new world they are creating. The real result is often low levels of engagement, or worse, confusion and alienation.
Why is this the case? It’s caused by an assumption which is often made in communications planning. Namely, it’s important to us, so it must automatically be of interest to our target audience.
The key here is perception. Even if information is relevant and important to an audience, unless its value is made clear in the framing and delivery of it, audiences may well not engage with it. Value for an audience is derived from perceived relevance i.e. the more this information seems relevant to me, the more value I will attach to it.
Always ask why
This takes us back to some of the basic principles of effective communications planning: understand your audience, carry out meaningful segmentation, select appropriate channels and use language which will be understood. Ultimately, it should always be clear to your target audience why you are communicating with them.