To do or not to do – 10 tips for communicating change


As the need to communicate change continues to permeate our work as communicators, here are our top tips to help you maximize your impact and minimize risk:

DO simplify.

Create a crisp, brief message on the intent behind the change and communicate it relentlessly. Find opportunities to create shared meaning using examples that are clearly understood and pace your messages to help build understanding over time.

DO focus on respect.

Treat employees with respect in providing them with the information, context and transparency they need (and deserve) to perform.

DO communicate as much as you can as soon as you can.

Commit to a regular schedule of updates and stick to it. Continually reinforce the intent of the change and as challenges arise, show how they are being addressed in service to advancing that intent.

DO set realistic expectations.

Protect credibility and trust by being realistic about the change. If there are gaps in solutions or if delays come up, say so.

DO keep in mind that context is king.

In a time of high change and disruption, the key is to focus on communicating context. It’s about going beyond communicating your “thing” and focusing instead on how the “things” relate to each other.

DON’T fall into the trap of “father knows best”.

Don’t let a parochial approach to communication creep in – information hoarding, spin and hiding the truth are not your friends.

DON’T get swept up in a vortex of complexity.

Your change may be complex, but your communications about the change, shouldn’t be. Text-heavy, overwhelming or convoluted change communications products will just exacerbate any existing anxiety or confusion the change may already be causing.

DON’T wait for all information to be perfect.

If you wait to communicate until every detail of the change is fully confirmed, it will be too late. Keep the focus on transparency and building trust, even if you’re working with imperfect or incomplete information. 

DON’T be a cheerleader.

Overselling the change as an all-singing, all-dancing solution is a recipe for failure. “Telling and selling” is not the way to build trust and credibility.

DON’T go dark.

Avoiding communicating difficult news will do nothing but backfire. If you allow a black hole in information to develop, you can bet it will quickly be filled by the rumour mill. 

For a deeper exploration of how to communicate effectively in a context of change and disruption, check out our workshops on Communicating Change and Leading Organizational Change.

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