It’s been almost 9 years to the date since I published my first blog post on change communication “So just what is change communication”
And in response to the #changeblogchallenge that Heather Stagl and I set up – this quarter needs to cover the same topic and it has to be new thinking.
So I thought I’d look at what has changed in the world of change communication in the last 10 years.
The answer? Well, there’s a hell of a lot that’s new.
Curiously, there’s also not so much that’s changed.
So much competing information. The volume and variety of competing information today is WAY WAY WAY WAY larger than what I first had to deal with when I started working in change communication. It is a function of change overwhelm and the pressure to adopt more agile ways of working. Competing information, hyper-fragmented channels, lots of need for sensemaking during uncertainty. The change communicator’s role, whether it be a leader or a comms advisor/consultant in a project, is an unenviable one. It’s bloody hard work. Whereas once it could have been just the change analyst who did it, not now — change communications is truly a specialized role.
Hyper-fragmented channels – there are SO many ways that people consume information and platforms for dialogue to occur, that to be a successful change communicator you really need to be relentlessly curious. See a new platform? Go try it out. Trying as many as platforms and channels as possible allows you to work out pretty fast what the strengths and weaknesses are. It’s important to revisit old-platforms-made-new to check whether updates have made any difference to usability/efficacy.
Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) and the core role they play in successful change. I tell you, when you work in an organisation without a functioning ESN, everything gets SO much harder to do.
Content curation. Our work is often advantaged by taking a content curator approach – which has us thinking about all of the compelling content that supports your change and connects with employees and deploying that in a considered way.
Communication feedback through data. We now often have the advantage of data and business insights to assist in targeted and effective change communication – who’s clicking where, open rates, how much time on particular pages.
It’s not about one message for one audience. The change communicator now has to work with nested narratives. Whereas once there was an overarching, monolithic, key message for the change – now there are nested in narratives in larger organisational discourses. Understanding this is critical for gaining access to the right audience at the right time.
Here’s what has not changed.
The need to understand your audience and their preferences. This was one of the key findings in my PhD research back in 2002-2004 and even then it was not an especially new finding. We already knew it. The key to success is doing an organisational communication audience so that you understand your stakeholders’ preferences.
The content of change communication still privileges emotion over rational information. Change communication always has an intimacy about it — a cultivated relationship with those going through change and acknowledgement and fostering of the emotional journey.
Clarity. You still need to be crystal clear on what the objective is of your change communication – is it to make sense of something? Engage conflict? Stir up innovative thoughts? Calm the waters down?
The need for someone good in a formal change communication role. Yes, change and communication should be everyone’s role, leader, manager, supervisor. But let’s face it, who has time to do the training and education needed to be really effective at this role? Do yourself a favour and hire someone really good to make it happen well.
I ended that first blog post on change communication with
“Here’s to all the change communicators – it’s a complex and challenging beast”.
Nine years on I raise that glass again. Change communication still is a complex and challenging beast!