1. Keep it simple, stupid. If a message is to be remembered it must be simple. That’s why it’s so important to focus on your few, big priorities, and not try and list everything. In Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, the internal reminder about the message was a sign that read, “It’s the economy, stupid!” What’s the simple focus you want to give your organisation?
  2. Have your 3-5 strategic priorities to refer to in every discussion. When I worked for Boots the Chemists, this was the cornerstone of CEO, Richard Baker’s communication strategy. Like a politician who has decided the answers she wants give, even before she’s been asked the questions, Richard was able to bring all of his responses back to his key priorities for the business.
  3. Expect to communicate it over 6,000 times. Lets say that the strategy has a ‘life’ of three years. If you assume that there are circa 200 working days a year and that you have 10 opportunities to articulate the strategy each day, there are up to 6,000 separate strategy sound bite opportunities over the three years. Of course, you could be more communicative, but let’s start somewhere.
  4. Have conversations, not speeches. There is a time for major speeches to set out your strategy and vision, but that is just the start, not the end of your communication plan. More important is the drip, drip, drip of your daily conversations. Unless they are in line with your key messages, your carefully crafted annual speech will be quickly forgotten and ignored.
  5. Create an emotional connection, not just a rational argument. Strong logic and rationale will help your people understand the new strategy, but they will only become committed if there is an emotional impact as well. For example, one of my clients, Avon Cosmetics, focuses its message around its goal of ‘empowering women’. This message helps create an emotional connection between the company and its thousands of, almost exclusively, female representatives around the globe.
  6. Use stories and examples. One way to create emotional engagement is to use stories. For example, when Sir Stuart Rose became CEO of M&S he used the story of how one product manager created an espadrille shoe from idea to the store within 12 days as an example to the rest of the business about effective risk taking.
  7. Appeal to your people’s self-interest. People aren’t afraid of change per se; they manage change on a daily basis. However, they will only act willingly when it is in their self-interest to do so. You should therefore seek to make a connection with your people’s priorities and why delivering the strategy is good for them. Aligning bonuses and rewards with your priorities are obvious ways that you can do this, but there are other approaches. Appealing to personal development and growth opportunities, managing your people’s wellbeing, increasing the sense of belonging between the company and its people, and the wider importance of the work of your organisation are all factors which have been shown to affect employee satisfaction and loyalty.
  8. Take visible action. In the end, of course, actions speak louder than words. By taking action consistent with your message, people will see that you are serious; without action your message is just empty words. For example, one way in which P&G’s ex-CEO, AG Lafley, hammered home his message that ‘the consumer is boss’ by ensuring each of his business trips included in-home and in-store customer sessions.