How to Bring Senior Leadership Onboard to New Ways of Communicating
Whether I’m working with a client on strategic planning, communications, community engagement or coaching, the question I most commonly get is how do I bring senior leadership onboard to new ways of communicating.
While there are leadership teams who embrace change in areas outside of their comfort zone, they are few and far between. For many, communications is an area that is a bit of a mystery.
When I’m talking about communications, I’m looking at social media, digital media, presentations, employee communications, media relations and more. Any form of communications used by an organization to share information with its clients, staff, stakeholders and community.
The two areas that senior leadership seems to struggle the most with are:
- social media
Let’s start with social media. For those of us who work in communications, we cringe when people lump all digital tools under social media. Why? Because there’s a big difference in how and why you would use Twitter vs Facebook vs LinkedIN vs…the list goes on.
Since each platform has its own audience, style, approach and effectiveness, lumping them all together is like filling your shopping cart with random groceries then trying to make a meal for a vegetarian with food allergies. Rather, to meet the specific requirements of the person you are cooking for you would select the groceries you need.
Same goes with social media. The tool needs to connect with the audience and message.
And this is where senior leadership stumbles.
A lack of understanding shouldn’t mean a halt on using social media effectively.
So how do you bring senior leadership onboard? It starts with educating them on what the tool is, what good usage of the tool looks like and how this can help the organization.
The easiest and least threatening way to do this is by presenting a case study. Do some research and share a campaign or social media channel that is making a meaningful connection with its audience. It doesn’t need to be in the same sector, but should have a similar brand personality to your organization.
Showcase one platform at a time, sprinkling in some key facts about the platform. Examples – Facebook has 2.91 billion monthly active users, is the #1 social network in the world, and is the favourite social platform for 35-44 demographic.
The idea is to show senior leadership both HOW the platform works, WHO it targets, WHY it’s an important communications tool for the organization and WHEN it should be used.
If you don’t spend time educating people, they’ll continue to hold tight to their personal beliefs. I also find a tendency for people in senior positions to ask less questions when they don’t understand something for fear of appearing like they don’t have all the answers.
While websites have been around for decades, how the public interacts with and the purpose of websites have greatly changed in the last few years. Although people are spending more time online, they’re spending less time interacting with websites (thanks COVID).
As society, we like bite size pieces of information vs digging in and spending time on any platform. Think of how the average person views digital media on their phone – scroll, scroll, scroll.
This is why the content heavy, long drop-down menus and minimal visuals do not work.
When it comes to creating a website, less is more.
A website is not the place to tell the detailed history of your organization, go into great details about your programs or services or showcase every product you sell (unless you have an e-commerce site). Rather, it’s about sharing highlights that provide the big picture and get people interested about learning more – either by connecting directly or following your organization on social media.
Depending on how much time your leadership team spends online, they may resist the less is more approach and use of videos and photos on your organization’s website.
Make it real
Once again – you’ll need to bring out the show and tell.
I always start with asking how they use websites. Is it to search up a menu at a restaurant, read the news, research a product before they buy, or for entertainment?
I then show some common websites they may use, pointing out some common features – use of photos, white space, minimal text, videos and more. It’s about helping them understand that the public brings a set of expectations to browsing websites instead of saying – oh this is government so it makes sense it’s a lot of information to sift through.
When working with non-profits, websites tend to be the biggest struggle. After going through this exercise, they often say – but we’re different, we’re a non-profit.
My response – the public doesn’t care. They want to find the information without a lot of digging on a visually pleasing platform. There are many great examples of clean, crisp and engaging non-profit websites.
The bottom line – if you want to bring your senior leadership team onboard to new ways of communicating, you need to educate them. This will likely be more than one meeting or presentation, but rather embedding education in your interactions – casual and formal.
Don’t expect people to come onboard with new ways of communicating just because you said so, or keep up with current communications trends. Educate, show, implement and repeat are the best ways to bring about positive change.