Public Service Announcements

When companies hire or appoint a person in charge of internal communication, what they often seek is somebody who understands Public Service Announcements.

This person ends up being a sounding board – or setting up a sounding board – for decisions that management is too lazy to communicate or does not know how to communicate. All-hands-on-deck meetings, intranets, committees, chats and channels are all manifestations of a role that slowly turns into a PR service for upper management: let’s give executives a way to share their views and opinions with everyone.

Communication is two-way, though.

And so, when is the last time your company’s all-hands has sparked an interesting discussion? When is the last time that a post shared on the intranet has led to the improvement of a process, to an idea for a new product? When has a conversation on a public channel been effective at changing the way you look at problems?

Communication is two-way. And it happens whether you are prepared for it or not.

So, if you are about to be appointed as the new internal communication manager, give this some thoughts. How can I start an actual conversation on an interesting topic? How can I make sure that ideas emerge and get discussed? How can I affect the culture, so that communication is no longer a role, but the way we do things around here?

The role is going to feel much more exciting right away.

To feel dumb

Imagine this.

Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence.

As this.

Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of corporate websites deliberately increase the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of expertise.

The paper introduced by the first text found that students using more difficult words actually end up giving the exact opposite impression: “needless complexity leads to negative evaluation”.

Using a very non-scientific method, I’d like to extend the findings to the situation I made up in the second text.

Nobody likes to feel dumb.

Does it matter?

In 2012, Google launched a brilliant campaign in view of SXSW.

Project Re:Brief wanted to give old school admen, creators of iconic ads (such as this, and this, and this), modern tools to see how their campaigns would look like on the web.

It is a wonderful idea, and the campaign got very good numbers. Google also made a documentary out of this project.

A few days after the launch, one of the people responsible for the campaign was presenting the social media results to the rest of the team. Their boss, perhaps a bit harshly, asked an important question (the full story can be heard here):

Does it matter?

The point is, Google can certainly spend time and resources tracking and reporting on things that do not have an impact on their mission, vision, numbers.

But can you?

Free trial

Does your audience want a free trial? Of course.

Do you have the resources to offer a free trial that delivers the right experience to the right audience, making them excited to continue on their journey to become champions of your own perspective?

Most companies would answer no.

And yet, they offer a free trial.

And that’s because a free trial, with the right form to capture the right information – credit card, of course – is very little about experience, about user journey, about changing minds and behaviors, while it is very much about boosting vanity metrics.

Your choice.

Not exciting anymore

Three reasons why the new tool, system, process, structure rolled out in your organization is no longer as exciting as it initially seemed.

  1. The people making the decision are the not the ones impacted by the decision. Very often, the people impacted by the decision are not even consulted in the decision-making phase. Assumptions and second guessing are key criteria.
  2. There was a tacit expectation that the tool, system, process would have been welcomed by everybody as a cure for all that is bad. In other words, nobody really gave change management a thought – and if number 1 is true, you are most likely already drifting into number 2.
  3. There is no agreement on accountability and how success is going to be measured. People will do everything to avoid saying: “we failed (and we will not fail again)”. Flawed solutions will be around for years, until a new change can be sold internally. Putting the process back at number 1.