Pep up your Communications

Did you know that the Zappos HR Employee Handbook is a comic book?  Employee handbooks are usually so dry and boring, why not make them a comic book?!  Why did it take this long for someone to do this?

While consulting at a large telecom, we found that we needed to get people to understand Agile.  With such a fundamental change to the way of working, people can’t absorb it all in a training class.  They need a little at a time. These folks were also under great time pressure and had no time to ponder new ideas.  Our goal was to get help them learn in a way that was fun, enjoyable, and unobtrusive. To do this we ended up with the “Agile Morsels”, a precursor to WorkBytes.  We sent out a weekly cartoon with just a paragraph or so of text.

What prevents internal communications from being lively?  The biggest fun killer is time pressure.  People are busy, they have other priorities, they just want to get the communication out and move on.  But be careful because it’s a trap! A boring communication piece is harder to get people to agree to, it’s harder to get people to read it, and it’s harder to produce.  You think you’re saving time, but you pay for it in energy. When you produce something inspiring it hardly feels like work.

How do you make communications fun?  People want to be fun and creative!  Allocate a little time and space to talk about how to make your communication piece fun and interesting. Let people surprise you.  

Try this…Next time you have to produce a slide deck or a newsletter, carve out 20 minutes with the team before you start, just to talk about what you can do to make it fun.  Ask some powerful questions like “What would make this slide deck be more engaging than any slide deck we’ve ever done?”

What do you want the audience’s experience to be? Spend a little time as a team thinking about what you want the audience to feel and think when they receive your communication?  What experience are you creating for them? “How do we want the reader to feel?” Get really clear on these outcomes before you begin creating any materials.  Then start to create a format and structure before filling it with content.

But the executives don’t want fun! “If we go in there with something goofy, we could get skewered by the executive team.”  It’s always a risk when you do something unique that it might not land. Here’s where you need to ask yourselves whether you want to choose a life that’s boring and safe or take a risk on one that’s extraordinary.

My personal experience on this is that 99% of the time it goes well.  People want to have fun, and they’ll likely join in and make it even better.  And that 1% that slams it down? Did you really want to be part of that club?

What have you done to keep your communications lively?  Let us know!