Inside out: Getting the message right

Inside out: Getting the message right

Worry all you want about what those outside your hospital – the media, the public – are saying about you.

Know that you’ve got an even bigger problem if the people inside your building aren’t on the same page.

Your staff can either be powerful advocates for your organization or passive bystanders. In the worst-case scenario, they can be devastating detractors. To make sure they’re vocal ambassadors, your organization needs a clear – and ongoing – focus on internal communications and message training.

Get the message right from day one

Here at Jarrard Inc., every new colleague works through message training with one of the founding partners soon after starting. Whether the person is a client advisor or a member of the administrative team is irrelevant: Each is expected to know the firm’s voice and to be able to talk about our work. There are practical business reasons for this, including that team members can encounter clients, potential clients and talent to recruit at any time. But beyond that, the Jarrard team understands that effective, coordinated and consistent work requires shared values and a shared language.

The firm works to ensure that our messaging remains fresh and tied to our values. Each of our values has a corresponding set of behaviors and expectations to guide our daily work. Of course, our brand guidelines keep the visual appearance of everything we do consistent. And throughout it all, we have a shared language. Nothing goes out externally without some level of review to ensure it corresponds with our “Jarrard way” and is of the highest possible value to our clients, partners and other audiences.

I bring this up not to be self-congratulatory. Rather, it’s a close-to-home example of how organizations can operate to minimize confusion and generate the maximum force toward an end goal.

Leave your comfort zone

Most of you are probably nodding along in agreement to the basic idea above. Internal alignment isn’t controversial, even if the tactics and overall manifestation might vary between organizations. But there’s clearly work to do on this. Otherwise, why do we see PR nightmares and angry staffing disputes on a regular basis?

The problem is follow-through. Everyone takes the time to develop a strategic plan. You have one, right? Of course you do. But what of it?

  • Are you sticking to the plan?
  • Is it a living, breathing thing?
  • Is it part of your everyday culture?
  • If you want everyone to stay on message, do you have that message?
  • Is everyone connected to that message?
  • Does everyone have a voice?
  • Do they have comfort in communicating with leadership?

Unless people understand the message, feel connected to it, are comfortable making suggestions about it and genuinely feel like they’ve played a part in forming it – they’re probably not going to buy into it or support it.

Not surprisingly, responsibility for this buy-in rests on leadership’s shoulders. It’s a common refrain for us: Leaders must find time to touch base with frontline staff. That means visiting different departments, having lunch in places other than your desk. Depending on your personality, it may mean getting out of your comfort zone and engaging with others. That’s how you can connect, build relationships, reinforce your messaging points and see them come to life.

Reinforce the message

Relationships are critical.

So is simplicity. Don’t overcomplicate your messaging. It should feel natural. It’s an extension of who you are and must be authentic. That’s makes it easier for others to not only buy in, but also celebrate it and pass it along.

Repetition is important. Many organizations stop after initial training. Years slip by before they even think about it again, and colleagues diverge from the message or simply lose sight of it.

Again, at Jarrard, following initial training we have periodic opportunities to reinforce the company’s values. And the integration of our voice and message into all of our material helps, as well.

So, to be clear, embedding your organization’s message and mission takes ongoing, intentional effort. Four months from now, eight months, a year, however long it may be, what are you doing to keep it fresh? Are you and your team identifying places where your values are being lived out and celebrating them? It’s like anything else: Stop using the muscle and it will atrophy. The same is true with messaging strategies and trying to reinforce those.

There’s tremendous value in taking a purposeful pause to focus on those values. You’ll emerge inspired, revived and re-committed to what you set out to do. Your staff should feel the same and the results for your organization will be dramatic.

Steve Patterson