Listen, learn, then plan
Effective internal communications begin with an attitude – an attitude of willingness to understand the organization’s culture and the information needs of the employees. It isn’t complicated, but it can take time to arrive at that place of understanding and readiness to develop a plan that aims to secure ongoing engagement.
Before anything, listen
Talking with managers is a good way to start in a large organization. They interact daily with frontline staff. (In smaller organizations, talk directly with key employees.) Managers know about the very real barriers that inhibit certain behaviors, even if senior leadership is asking for them. They understand what motivates and inspires cooperation and engagement. They understand their department’s culture. Their input may prompt a reality-check, and their ideas may spur a better message or channel. Begin with listening.
Learn about options
What to do with all that insight? Chances are leadership already has designs on a message, especially if the communication is around business strategy or upcoming change. The challenge is to think through options for creating a compelling story, and identifying the most cost-effective channels for sharing it. Since the managers are already clued in, and since they’re key to effective internal communications, consider ways to systematically engage them. Also incorporate the insights you learned by listening so closely in your first step. This sifting, sorting, learning phase allows full vetting of the options, and decisions that will lead to a successful plan.
Writing the plan is the opportunity to envision how the message, creative, channels and timeline bring it all together. Because each component of the plan has been thoughtfully developed and is designed with the target audience in mind, the overall plan stands to be more readily approved by leadership and more readily understood by employees. Most importantly, when it’s executed, it will be more effective in achieving the communication objectives.
Now, didn’t that refreshed attitude take you far?
Healthcare and technology are both hot button words and, where the two come together, organizations have real opportunity to communicate innovation and industry leadership. The tricky part is translating those complex concepts (like premature ventricular contractions) into relevant, easy-to-understand language (heart screenings on your iPhone!).
Here are a few tips for conveying your next healthcare technology idea:
Talk with the experts and ask the right questions
The people closest to your product or technology are usually the best able to describe its purpose. They’re also the most likely to trail off into jargon that consumers might not understand. Put on your “customer hat” and ask good, focused questions about what this means for those who will be using it. That way you’ll hone in on the technology’s benefits.
Communicate the benefits
The best, most impressive technology in the world doesn’t mean much unless people understand how it can help them. Emphasize the benefits before getting into techie details about specs.
Talk about your patents
Many technology processes are extremely complex. By mentioning the type of patents your product has secured, you immediately convey credibility and generate potential interest among media.
Target your audiences
When you’re first introducing new healthcare technology, the best audience is typically healthcare professionals (or reporters at the publications those healthcare pros read) who might use it on a regular basis. They are more apt to recognize immediate benefits and, based on their reactions and feedback, you can continue to refine consumer messages for the next wave of your roll out.
With the proper preparation, you can ensure your next communication about emerging healthcare technologies really makes a connection!
What comes first? In our business, the answer isn’t the chicken or the egg, it’s the message or the design. Often, the message and the audience dictate the design of the collateral materials, whether it’s a brochure, trade ad, internal memo or magazine. We listen carefully to what the client is trying to communicate and develop the collateral pieces and the campaign based on that message. Just like the chicken and the egg, they both have to be in synch.
When you think of a bank or other financial institution, what comes to mind? Colors of blue and green, block copy in a basic font and straightforward language—something that evokes a conservative peace of mind. Would you trust your bank if you had happy smiley faces on your bank statement? It’s your money and there’s nothing cute or funny about it. Whether conscious or not, all elements of a design play a part of the branding process.
Bottom Line recently concluded an internal customer service campaign for a bank client. We threw the above rules out the window and came up with something fun, clever and easy to duplicate. The scope of work was to help create a greater focus on customer service, both internally and with customers. We had a bit more creativity than the standard quarterly earnings reports because the message was for internal use with employees. The messages came through loud and clear using a fun, upbeat logo that did, in fact, include a smiley face and bright colors throughout the four-month campaign.
An important step in determining message and design is to consider the audience. Another client trusted us to create a brochure to help market an innovative piece of medical equipment. Knowing our audience would be highly skilled neurosurgeons, our message had to be brief and succinct. The brochure design was graphically pleasing, showing the equipment in use. The copy focused on how this product would save time in the operating room—a benefit for both the surgeon and the patient.
At the first client meeting, listen carefully to the message. Look at samples of what they currently use and start to get a feel for what they like. Whenever possible, have the graphic designer sit in on that initial meeting so you can begin to work together to match the message to the design and come up with something the client will love.
The biggest opportunity any organization has in articulating its brand story externally is to communicate that story effectively to every single employee, at every level of the organization.
Your brand is the heart and soul of your organization. It defines not simply what you do, but how and why you do it. It describes the experience your customers enjoy every time they interact with your organization. Your brand defines the benefits for the customer, and therefore, its true value.
A well-told brand story defines for employees the expectations customers have of them to deliver on the brand promise every day. By hardwiring your brand story internally, you make certain that no matter who the customer interacts with – the CEO, the online customer service person, the housekeeper – everyone delivers the same positive, on-message experience all the time.
In the end, your brand is simply what your customers take away from their various experiences with your organization, good or bad. Make sure it’s going to be good externally by starting internally.