Did you get the memo... (and do you care?)
The business memorandum (memo) has moved along quite some way from its humble beginnings as an internal letter used for communication within an organization. Given the focus of much of my work on young people it’s probably worth quickly adding in here that they tended to be an organization's internal version of the business letter, written on any subject (of importance - more to come on this…), printed and circulated around an office. On paper. And there were probably less than 100 of them circulated daily, in fact I’m confident enough to say that they probably didn’t even occur daily.
Did you get the memo…?
In the world today it’s a very different story.
Standing out as a result is hard (remember my previous article on ‘infinite browsing mode’?), no more so than in over overcrowded inboxes. Those busy inboxes that receive, on average, more than 100 new emails per day. Now, if you’re anything like me then one strategy you might tackle this digital mountain of communications by scanning for the emails you NEED to respond to and those that you WANT to respond to. Sound familiar? More than likely I’d say, especially when it comes to internal communications received amongst that 100. Your colleagues are busy, with their own priorities. And you are likely to not be one of them.
As a result the task of the communication professional becomes successfully delivering a message to someone who wasn’t expecting it. It’s hard, and can be a soul-destroying exercise, knowing there that there is a possibility that the message may be glazed over, and at worst, not even read. From my own experience preparing internal comms which were then shared via email and/or intranet sites I’ve learnt that there are two types of messages that your employees are most likely to read:
Those that ask for compliance, and
Those that share the stories of other employees
Two messages which are at odds with each other as far as I can see. Messages of compliance ask the reader to take action or understand facts needed to comply with a wish or command, and conjure up synonyms in my head including adhere, observe, obey and conform, that will speak to the left, analytical side of the brain. However, the messages that share stories are debatably much more interesting as they will spark an emotional connection with the right hand, creative side of the brain that informs decision-making - like the decision of whether to read your message. Provided it is clear.
…and do you care?
If you’ve sparked a connection with your reader as intended clarity of message is then your next objective. Picking one call to action is a great way to do this - think ‘what is the one thing that I want them to do?’. Too often in the past I’ve been challenged to deliver multiple messages under one headline. Can you imagine a newspaper trying to do the same thing? No. This should be the culmination of building up a picture of your intended audienceEnsure you are clear on:
Your AUDIENCE: Who the message is for. From experience one size fits all rarely works, especially when you are looking for brand advocates to further amplify your message. Your reader will be asking ‘how does this apply to me?’ - give them the answer.
Your TOPIC: What the message is for. Ensuring that this is linked directly to key objectives that the organization you are delivering the message on behalf of (the compliance angle), and there it’s of interest to your readership (the emotional connection to stir them into action). Make it relatable and where you can empathise with the additional workload being suggested always helps.
Your CALL TO ACTION: What you want the reader to do next. Keep it simple and in this case link directly to your own communication objective. You need to be able to measure success to report back to your stakeholders and to be confident that your message has been delivered.
I’m sure this is by no means foolproof, however, it does ensure that once you’ve held their attention long enough to read that the likelihood of action taken increases.