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17/06/2020

Change communication: convincing the doubters

Crisis communication Reputation management

In this day and age change communication is more important than ever. Companies that want to steer their transformation in the right direction should first and foremost communicate with the doubters: those who don’t know (yet) if they are for or against the change. Additionally, map out your stakeholders, their opinions and their questions, and use those insights in a long-term communication strategy. This way, you are best prepared for every change in your organisation.

Find the flexitarian in your company

When old habits clash with innovation, companies arrive at a fork in the road. Only a third of your workforce will enthusiastically go with your story, some 20% will be categorically against a change. So you can expect a lot of resistance from the latter group. Which leaves you with half of your internal stakeholders ‘passively’ waiting for strong arguments to choose either side A or B.

You could compare it to the battle slaughterhouses wage in the external communication domain. Side A: the ardent carnivores who will support you unconditionally. Side B: action groups for animal welfare who will vehemently vote against. But the vast majority are quite undecided: they believe animal welfare is important, but also like to indulge in a juicy steak. These are the people you have to get on board in order to generate wide support.

Stakeholder mapping

As a company executive preparing to roll out your transformation plans you generally have a few days or even weeks to prepare yourself before the first internal and external communication is activated. This should buy you enough time to update your stakeholder mapping: who takes what side? Who will voice which arguments and opinions? These insights are what you need to fine-tune your communication.

Start with your own people, who undoubtedly will have certain practical questions: what does this change mean for me? For my job? For my future? As a company you have to be transparent in your answers, explain where you come from and what your future plans are. Fear and demotivation must be dealt with adequately, if not any transformation is a lost cause.

Develop a plan for both internal and external communication

When communicating on change management don’t limit yourself to just one moment, quite on the contrary. A well-developed strategic plan takes into account several specific points in time. Communicate both internally and externally about your company’s vision for the future, answer practical questions and manage the public opinion. And don’t forget the golden rule: transformations within companies are not one-way streets, and they can only be successful if and when wholeheartedly supported by your workforce.

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