How to Develop an Effective Communication Strategy

Don’t Jump to the Media First in Remote Communication

Whether it’s internal team communication or communication with customers and clients, it’s easy for mixed messages and confusion to crop up. Especially in remote or hybrid work environments. The solution? Build a communication strategy.

That’s Jesse Lahey’s, Co-founder and Strategic Partner at Workforce Communication, secret for communication success. Jesse joins The Visual Lounge to break down his strategies and frameworks for communicating more effectively – without relying so much on media to paint a picture.

Jesse is also a consultant, speaker, and author with over 25 years of experience in leadership and workforce communication. Previously, he was an HR communication leader at a Fortune 500 manufacturer with nearly 20,000 employees worldwide. Since 2012, he’s also hosted the Engaging Leader podcast, which has been downloaded millions of times by leaders worldwide.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post. To listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more.

Why a communication strategy is important

Communication is a natural part of everyday life, and yet most people don’t consider how they communicate.

For Jesse, the key to becoming a better communicator as an individual or a brand is to start with intentionality.

Building a communication strategy means building a plan of action to accomplish a specific outcome – but most people don’t approach communication in that way.

Communication, for many, is seen as intuitive. After all, we’ve been communicating our whole lives, and so “we think we’re really good at it.” But sadly, that’s not always true.

When leaders come across a problem, many will skip the planning process and jump right into the tactics like firing off an email or creating a video. But if you don’t take the time to strategize before acting, that email or video could have mixed or unclear messages, which adds to the confusion.

The essential elements of a communications strategy

It starts with intentionality and a strategy. A communication strategy simply means ordered planning to accomplish a specific outcome.

Jesse has a handy cheat sheet method he calls the 5M Framework for becoming more intentional about communication.

1. Mission

The first M is mission – what are you trying to accomplish? What are the specific business outcomes this type of communication needs to achieve?

2. Members

The second M is all about who your specific target audience is. Who will receive this communication, and what do you know about them?

3. Messages

The next one is what do you want people to know? Your aim might be to transfer knowledge, change a behavior, or clarify something. You could also call this the narrative or story part.

4. Media

This is the stage that most people jump straight to after they notice a problem. But think carefully about which communication channels are best to use. Do you need a video, a poster, or an email? It’ll depend on the audience and the content itself.

You might even consider using multiple mediums, like social media posts, emails, or videos, to make sure the message gets across to everyone who needs to hear it.

5. Managers

These are the key stakeholders or influencers in your organization. How do you help them make this communication a success?

Jesse believes if you can think about the 5Ms even for a few minutes, you are much more likely “to actually achieve your objective as opposed to being disappointed.”

The next step in your communication strategy: execution

A powerful story creates an emotional bond. So people are more likely to be open or even motivated to change.

The next step once you’ve built a solid strategy and are clear on your aims is to execute that strategy. Jesse uses a simple model called the SVS model, which is great for both on-site and remote employees and audiences.

This stands for:

  • Simple
  • Visual
  • Stories

Simple, visual stories are very effective in increasing how well you connect with people and inspire trust – which increases the likelihood of driving action.

1. Simple

Jesse breaks this down into three things: short, purposeful, and well-crafted.

In other words, the shorter your content, the better. Purposeful refers to the mission you’re trying to accomplish. The third area, well-crafted, is about ensuring that you’re doing a good job at delivering your message.

2. Visual

On the visual side, Jesse says there are three things to think about: metaphors, images, and characters.

These elements stimulate paradigms in people’s brains and set expectations. In this context, we’re talking about using an image or analogy that’s familiar to the audience.

“Our brains tend to be lazy. We tend to fall back on things that we’re already familiar with. If we can help people make a connection with something they’re already familiar with, it speeds up the process of learning and adopting.”

3. Story

Story also has three components:

  1. Connection
  2. Entertainment
  3. Action

The story side of your message is about how you connect with people’s minds and hearts. A story makes something real and builds a connection.

It’s important to highlight that your message is a real issue affecting real people – not just something management wants. 

Honor the power of communication

Jesse’s take-home message is this – “honor the power of communication”.

We are always communicating, whether intentionally or not, so if we think more strategically about it, we can improve it tenfold.

His advice is to think of yourself as a communicator, not just a leader, but someone who’s actually engaged in the conversation. Think about how you can make the most of and be intentional with moments of communication.

For more tips on communicating and building effective training content, check out TechSmith Academy where you’ll pick up plenty of tips and resources like this.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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