Designing Recognition Programs That Motivate Behavior

Whether you’re in charge of designing a rewards and recognition for your organization, or putting an awards program together for your industry, the question to ask yourself is: what behaviors are we trying to motivate? Teamwork? Employee retention? An above-and-beyond work ethic? Awareness? And the million dollar question: Is our current recognition program doing the job?

A few years back, JJ&W was conducting an internal communication study for an airline client. One of the objectives was to get feedback from employees on how they felt about the client’s recognition program. Amazingly, one anecdote came up consistently in the 25 focus groups we conducted. It concerned one of the airline’s toughest financial years. At the holidays, the CEO sent a letter recognizing everyone’s hard work, along with two cookies, to each employee. Here’s what we heard from employees: “If you want to motivate us, don’t give us two $3 cookies in a $6 box…bring in lunch for our crew when we’ve been working 24/7 during a tough weather stretch!” If you don’t know how employees want to be recognized and rewarded …ask! A little research can go a long way in helping you to design an effective recognition program. Note: as a result of the research JJ&W conducted, the recognition program was revamped to include both individual and team awards, given that teamwork at an airline is a must-have behavioral goal. After all, we all want those pilots, gate agents and baggage handlers working together to deliver customer delight!

A few tips on designing a strategic rewards and recognition program:

1. Evaluate your program…is it driving your behavioral goals? The Yankee Chapter of PRSA gives an award, originally known as the Yankee Award, but renamed for JJ&W’s founder and now called the Patrick Jackson Award. The Chapter asks its members to nominate professionals who are not in the public relations field but who successfully use public relations principles to benefit their organization and society, while demonstrating a track record of building public relationships that earn trust. Last year, Van Mcleod, former NH Commissioner of the Arts, won the award posthumously and joined a list of NH heavy hitters including Governor Walter Peterson, Bishop Gene Robinson and former NH Charitable Foundation president Lew Feldstein. The whole idea behind the award is to educate those outside our profession about what PR is and what it looks like when it is done well. The award has been in place since the 90’s, and rather than just keep giving the award, there is a committee in place to evaluate its effectiveness – are we getting the behavioral outcomes we want? Are we educating NH’s senior leaders about the value of PR by giving this award?

2. Consider filling a niche that doesn’t exist. Think about scholarships – there are many schools with awards for financial need and sky-high GPAs. When my high school scholarship committee got together to design the criteria for our class scholarship, we decided to go for a new niche and reward the “slow starter that finished strong”. When we are screening applications, we’re looking for the person who turned the corner in the latter half of their high school career, balancing GPA with work, outside interests and public service.

3. Design an industry award that gives back to the profession in some way. At our 35th anniversary (over 30 years ago!), Jackson Jackson & Wagner established the JJ&W Behavioral Science prize with a donation of $35,000 to the PRSA Foundation. The intent was to honor an individual behavioral science researcher whose scholarly work enhances the understanding of the concepts and theories that contribute to the effectiveness of the public relations practitioner. Since JJ&W’s focus is behavior change, this research is an important foundation to the work we do for clients. Pat Jackson coined this type of giving “enlightened self-interest” — you do good for others but it reflects positively on your organization as well. The winner is honored at PRSA International Conference, with the idea they will conduct a professional development session based on their work, so conference attendees can all benefit. Note: the award is not given every year; just when the awards committee finds a deserving candidate.

Similarly, PRSA established the Silver Anvil awards back in 1945 to recognize the best public relations campaigns in our industry – these are all catalogued on PRSA’s website, www.prsa.org, for the benefit of all members. Last year, NASA was recognized with the Best of Silver Anvil awards for their “Year in Space: Communicating NASA’s Historic One-Year Mission from Space to Ground” program. Click here to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iTaEyl1Mcg

A final thought: if you’re on the receiving end of a prestigious award or recognition, don’t stop at issuing a press release to announce it – go direct to the audiences that matter most. When I earned my APR back in 1991, JJ&W notified our clients directly, and I got some wonderful hand-written notes of congratulations from fellow PR practitioners and friends acknowledging this accomplishment. As a measure of how much those meant to me … I still have them in my possession today, all these years later.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is senior counsel and partner for Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm. For more information about Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

21 Measurement Standards To Help Really, Really Understand Employees And Build Effective Communication Systems To Reach Them

For a long time, the focus for internal communications has been building and measuring employee engagement. How “engaged” are our employees in our organization and in what they do? How does our workforce compare to others? Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools to measure employee engagement and see how your organization rates compared to others. Woo hoo!

But in the words of legendary PR practitioner Patrick Jackson, “SO WHAT?” What does it mean that your employees are on par with or slightly above (or below) others in your industry or region on their engagement score? And, what can you do about it? What does it really mean and how do you raise a low score or increase an already high one?

This month, the PR Journal has published a paper on this very topic that I have been working on, along with my colleagues, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Associate Professor at Kent State and Sean Williams, M.A. True Digital Communications, OH, for the past few years. We recognized a while back that it is the components of engagement that we must measure, in order to affect change — not the overall concept of engagement. “But what are those components?” we wondered.

After conducting both professional and academic literature reviews, a two-round Delphi study with leading Internal Communication professionals (those with 10 years plus of practice in the field and a known thought leader in the profession), plus numerous presentations at PRSA, International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) and elsewhere, we arrived at 21 specific standards divided into 3 “buckets”. Those buckets are:

1) Outtakes (whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messaging),
2) Outcomes (evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors)
3) Organizational Impact (if and how internal communication has influenced organizational performance).

Each bucket has specific standards that can be measured independently of each other and thus be tackled for improvement in many ways– words, symbols, actions, etc. All together, these 21 standards might define “engagement” but without measuring them independently, we really don’t know the root cause of an engagement problem. See specific standards for each bucket below or in the article at: https://prjournal.instituteforpr.org/

We also believe that it is not necessary to measure all 21Standards concurrently or even work on all of them simultaneously to see improvements. Your organization could identify a few in each bucket (or just one bucket) to begin work. Just identifying areas for work is a step in the right direction! Utilize your employee body to help select those standards that need the most attention. Ask them what can be done to improve. Involving them in the process is a great first step to building a new path and a culture builder/healer.

Currently, the team is seeking a few organizations who would like to work with us in identifying how to measure each of these concepts — with survey research and behaviorally with data an organization may already have on hand. If your organization might have an interest, let us know!

Measurement Standards for Internal Communication 2018

21 Measurement Standards To Help Really, Really Understand Employees And Build Effective Communication Systems To Reach Them

For a long time, the focus for internal communications has been building and measuring employee engagement. How “engaged” are our employees in our organization and in what they do? How does our workforce compare to others? Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools to measure employee engagement and see how your organization rates compared to others. Woo hoo!

But in the words of legendary PR practitioner Patrick Jackson, “SO WHAT?” What does it mean that your employees are on par with or slightly above (or below) others in your industry or region on their engagement score? And, what can you do about it? What does it really mean and how do you raise a low score or increase an already high one?

This month, the PR Journal has published a paper on this very topic that I have been working on, along with my colleagues, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Associate Professor at Kent State and Sean Williams, M.A. True Digital Communications, OH, for the past few years. We recognized a while back that it is the components of engagement that we must measure, in order to affect change — not the overall concept of engagement. “But what are those components?” we wondered.

After conducting both professional and academic literature reviews, a two-round Delphi study with leading Internal Communication professionals (those with 10 years plus of practice in the field and a known thought leader in the profession), plus numerous presentations at PRSA, International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) and elsewhere, we arrived at 21 specific standards divided into 3 “buckets”. Those buckets are:

1) Outtakes (whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messaging),
2) Outcomes (evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors)
3) Organizational Impact (if and how internal communication has influenced organizational performance).

Each bucket has specific standards that can be measured independently of each other and thus be tackled for improvement in many ways– words, symbols, actions, etc. All together, these 21 standards might define “engagement” but without measuring them independently, we really don’t know the root cause of an engagement problem. See specific standards for each bucket in the article at: https://prjournal.instituteforpr.org/

We also believe that it is not necessary to measure all 21Standards concurrently or even work on all of them simultaneously to see improvements. Your organization could identify a few in each bucket (or just one bucket) to begin work. Just identifying areas for work is a step in the right direction! Utilize your employee body to help select those standards that need the most attention. Ask them what can be done to improve. Involving them in the process is a great first step to building a new path and a culture builder/healer.

Currently, the team is seeking a few organizations who would like to work with us in identifying how to measure each of these concepts — with survey research and behaviorally with data an organization may already have on hand. If your organization might have an interest, let us know!

Measurement Standards for Internal Communication 2018

Give Where You Get: Social Responsibility Policies That Make Sense

According to the Cone Communication 2017 CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) study, 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. Two-thirds of Americans will refuse to purchase a product if they learn that the company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

It is important for corporations to be transparent about how social responsibility dollars are allocated and what issues they are supporting. Nonprofits also need to be forthright about who is funding them, and how the money is spent.

JJ&W has been a proponent of developing clear corporate social responsibility/giving policies for many years, and urging clients to communicate about them. Whether you are Target (donating 5% of profits in communities where they have stores) or Xerox (involving over a half million Xerox employees through their Community Involvement Program) or Google (with initiatives like Google Green, a corporate effort to reduce the use of resources effectively while supporting renewable power), strategic social responsibility is an opportunity that should not be ignored. Some organizations, like Patagonia, are even choosing their suppliers based on social responsibility practices. They vet suppliers using a 4-fold approach, considering ethical sourcing, social responsibility, product quality and environmental compliance before they select.

Questions your leadership should be asking about their corporate social responsibility policy:

1. Are we supporting causes and issues that have a connection to our business?
2. To what degree are we encouraging employees to get involved in social responsibility activities? (Note: programs designed this way
have the additional payoff of increasing morale and teamwork)
3. How well have we communicated the policy in order to make clear where we are spending social responsibility resources – so we don’t
waste the time of applicants or the department in our organization charged with weeding through the applications?
4. How well have we communicated the results of our social responsibility programs? Have we effectively tracked where employee time and
corporate dollars are spent, and how this time and money has translated into results? Do our employees, Board members, vendors,
customers and other key audiences know about these results?
5. Are we giving where we get business?
6. Are we supporting the masses or practicing focused philanthropy?

In 1991, JJ&W established the JJ&W Behavioral Science Prize, aligned with our values and in honor of our 35th year of practice. Guidelines specify the Prize should be awarded to a person or persons who has/have contributed a significant body of theory and/or research that enhances understanding of behavioral public relations and whose work is available to scholars and practitioners. Recipients come from the field of public relations, social science and business. (For more about the award and a complete list of winners, visit www.jjwpr.com).

USING DATA TO DRIVE BUSINESS DECISIONS — DRIVING THEME AT SHMD CONFERENCE

Hats off to the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHMD) for putting together an A+ event in Orlando last week filled with substantive presentations and fantastic keynote speakers.

One of the clear themes that emerged from the conference was the need for PR and Marketing practitioners to understand and use data to drive organizational change and decisionmaking. Rick Foster, MD, Sr. Executive for the South Carolina Hospital Association, spoke about his use of data with communities and healthcare providers to reduce healthcare disparities – the Health Equity issue – and how data help them effectively target communities and even neighborhoods with programs to meet their specific health needs.

John Berg, VP of System Marketing for the SCL Health System, urged professionals to go beyond the counting of Facebook “likes” and “shares” in their measurement efforts. “What the President and CFO want to know is, ‘How many new patients did this campaign generate, what was the estimated revenue and how does that compare to our control group?’.

Ty Kennon of Mercy Health Systems, explained “if our department can’t measure it, we don’t do it.” His was the only department to get a budget increase this fiscal year, based on the ROI (Return on Investment) metrics they provided to upper management.
Gail Winslow, Associate Director, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and I presented on “Using Data to Drive Behaviors & Make Effective Decisions”. Gail suggests practitioners begin with a “data audit” to determine what data the organization has already and what additional data might be needed to drive organizational decisionmaking.

In her role as Director of Marketing at Concord Orthopaedics, Gail looked at CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data, state hospital association surveys, new patient data, surgical volume data, customer satisfaction survey results, referral data and conducted a zip code analysis as well as an analysis of payor mix. This led to her recommendation to open a 2nd Day Surgery Center and a 3rd practice location. The 3rd practice location reached its performance goal in the first 9 months of operation and the 2nd Day Surgery Center outperformed expectations at the half-year mark.

In her current role at the UMass Medical School, Gail led the conversion from an outdated legacy data system to Salesforce in an effort to automate data collection that would ultimately show the profitability of business units, build capacity for staff recruitment and allow for trends analysis.

A clear message to practitioners: don’t be afraid of data! If you don’t know how to analyze, curate and translate it now, make that your next professional development goal. If you would like help in evaluating your current measurement program, contact Robin Schell or Stacey Smith at Jackson Jackson & Wagner: rschell@jjwpr.com or ssmith@jjwpr.com, or, for more information on her programs contact Gail Winslow at gail.winslow@umassmed.edu. More about JJ&W at www.jjwpr.com

MEASURING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT — WHAT TO MEASURE & WHY

“Engagement” is, as we like to say, the “flavor of the month” amongst organization leadership, employee communication and human resource professionals.

Getting an engagement score helps an organization know how they compare with other organizations like theirs as well as win headlines for “best places to work” in magazines and newspapers. What it doesn’t do is tell leadership anything about what might be wrong and what to do about it. Does the score reflect a problem with trust? transparency? empowerment? teamwork? satisfaction? something else?

A team of public relations academics and professionals set out a few years ago to dissect employee engagement in order to understand what are the driving factors of employee relations, and what truly contributes toward building a workforce that is committed to and fully productive for the organization. Lead by Sean Williams of TruDigital Communications, Ohio, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D. of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Ph.D. of Kent State and myself, along with 13 other international professionals and scholars, we sought to fully define Measurement Standards for the profession around employee relations.

A glimpse into the soon to be published paper, shows 22 Standards, broken down into three key categories:

 Outtakes — Whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messages
 Outcomes — evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors
 Organizational Impact — Whether and how internal communication has influence organizational performance

What is NOT a category is outputs, what is generated as a result of a program or campaign, and now typically measured by the number of releases, brochure, posters, meetings held, etc. or the number of column inches generated. Outputs were discarded by our group because they show no impact, only production. Using these data points for measurement would be like rating your dentist’s effectiveness on the number of x-rays he took of your mouth to cure a toothache!

Next steps for the committee is to identify methods for measuring each of the 22 Standards — both by self-reporting (surveys) and observation (behavioral indicators already available in an organization). The committee hopes to work with three different organizations to test these standards and their measurement methods — Southwest Airlines is already on-board!

We expect the paper to be published soon, but if you are interested in a bootlegged copy of the 22 standards and their definitions, contact me at ssmith@jjwpr.com.

Changing Behaviors On Concussion Treatment Through “Chalk Talk”

The "4 Steps To Public Behavior Change"  by Jim Grunig, Harold Mendelsohn, Brenda Darvin,  Max McCombs and other behavior change specialists laid out a path of action that has been used with great success by such efforts as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), smoking cessation programs and others.  Now it has been applied to the problem of concussions and learning. 

The Brain Injury Association of NH (BIANH), in cooperation with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS), has developed a pilot program called “Chalk Talk” for returning students with concussions to the classroom with the same care taken that they would use to return them to the playing field.

For the past 3 years, BIANH representatives have worked with Concussion Management Teams at 9 high schools and two middle schools to establish a protocol that involves baseline testing before a concussion occurs, and careful monitoring to ease them back into their academic schedule to allow the brain time to recover.

“Instead of sending the student home for 2 weeks, where the temptation to watch TV and use electronics is high, the student recovers under the careful guidance of a team of school professionals.  This may include time out of the classroom in a specially designed location to address issues of fatigue or sensitivities to light or sound,” says Lynne Fleming, Program Coordinator. “It’s a team approach, and the school nurse, athletic trainer, teachers, parents, guidance counselors and Dartmouth Hitchcock’s pediatric neuropsychologists are all evaluating the student’s progress.  They are monitored and given a reduced work load, so they are only sent back to a full schedule of classes when they are ready.”

In addition to comparing post-concussion data with baseline data, parents, teachers and nurses are asked to complete forms to evaluate the student’s progress on a daily basis.  “Having the expertise of a trained pediatric neuropsychologist is key,” says Steve Wade, Executive Director.  “We were fortunate to receive a 5-year ACL (Administrators for Community Living) grant, much of which is used to pay the pediatric neuropsychologists for consulting to the education team.”

In 2012, NH Governor John Lynch signed SB402, otherwise known as “return to play” legislation.  This bill gave schools clear guidelines on returning a student to the playing field after they had sustained a concussion.  Now the BIANH is considering legislation for RLT or “return to learn” to take the protocols developed in Chalk Talk one step further.  “There are 7 states out there with Return to Learn legislation,” says Executive Director Steve Wade, “and we are in the process of studying how it has been implemented elsewhere.  We plan to talk with opinion leaders on the topic of brain injury here in NH about the merits of similar legislation here.”

So the 4 steps to public behavior change,  was ideal for successfully asking for Return to Learn legislation.

The 4 Steps In Action:

Step 1 developed a coalition campaign to educate the public that a concussion is a brain injury and it is critical not to overtax the brain while it is in recovery mode.  This involves identifying opinion leaders on the topic, getting them to recognize the problem and how they could be affected, and giving them opportunities to address the problem (by serving on concussion team task forces, advocating the proper treatment of concussed students, advocating legislation etc.).

Step 2, enforcement, or establishing laws or guidelines that would mandate the behavior change –is where Return to Learn legislation would come in .

Step 3, engineering, or enacting a structural change to work around the situation is what  BIANH has done with the creation of the Chalk Talk program and system for evaluating progress.

Step 4,  social reinforcement –is where the behavior becomes a socially-acceptable norm, and social rewards and punishment take over the job of enforcing it.  Ideally, in the future, every school will have a protocol for returning a student to the classroom after a concussion.   Just as we have learned we need to protect the developing brain from re-injury on the playing field, we now know we need to reduce cognitive demands in the classroom in order to give the brain time to heal.

The “So What” Factor: Migrating From Outputs to Outcomes in PR Research

For years, PR practitioners measured effectiveness by “counting clips” and calculated the dollar value of press coverage they obtained for their organizations. Some PR people are still doing this — mostly, we hope, only when their bosses are demanding it. We have made progress, but we know we have much more work to do to educate management on what Public Relations and Communications professionals can …and should … be measuring.

The good news is, more and more public relations professionals are thinking about what JJ&W calls the “so what” factor – we measured it, but so what? What are the behavioral results? It’s nice that we know how many people recalled seeing our hospital's advertising …but what really matters is, how many people chose our hospital for their healthcare needs?

I’m happy to report that the subject of how PR professionals measure the impact of what we do is being presented on, discussed and debated a lot more frequently than when I started my career 30 years ago. In 2010, the Institute of PR Research formed the Barcelona Principles. There are 7 principles, which are continually discussed and refined, and they reflect the direction PR research is moving in our field. Principle #2, for example, states unequivocally that “measuring the effect on outcomes is recommended vs. only measuring outputs.”

JJ&W has been talking about the importance of measuring behavior for years; Pat Jackson, JJ&W’s founder, together with leading academic professional Jim Grunig, created the Public Relations Behavioral Model and implored practitioners to define the “ultimate desired behavior(s)” they were seeking — in order to have a clear behavioral goal against which to measure success. It’s nice to see the scales in our field tipping in the behavioral direction.

At the International PR Research Conference in Miami this past March, practitioners from all over the world shared ideas on measuring ROI (return on investment) relative to PR activity. Visit www.instituteforpr.org to download and listen to some of those conversations.

Both keynote and breakout session speakers at the PRSA District Conference held on April 28th in Corning, NY focused their remarks on delivering measurable results.

• Ross Levi from the NYS Division of Tourism talked about the impact of the “I Love NY” campaign and its efforts to broaden tourism beyond NYC to all parts of NY – generating a staggering $102 billion in tourism dollars for the state.

• Katie Paine of KD Paine & Partners urged PR practitioners to “measure behavior, not activities”. Instead of doing research to measure our performance, she said, PR should be conducting research that will produce better results for our organizations

• I added to the District conference research conversations by presenting with my colleague Dane Wiseman on the topic, “Your PR Data Has A Story”. Part of dissecting the behaviors we want to reinforce or change is finding out what motivates our audiences, and what’s blocking the behaviors we want from our audiences. We need to make sure our research is asking the right behavioral questions so we have the information we can use to develop the right PR strategies.

For a copy of my Powerpoint on “PR Storytelling with Behavior-Based Data”, email me at rschell@jjwpr.com. For more information on Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel & Partner,       Jackson Jackson & Wagner

 

Just Because We Can, Should We? Why Organizations Should Not Rollback Policies, Just Because Washington Now Says We Can

The Trump Administration is busy reversing a myriad of policies that had been put in place by the previous administration.  They say these policies "hinder productive business growth and job creation".  I am not arguing that one way or the other. I do want to remind us, though, of the impact these decisions could have on the bottom line of many organizations. 

It is evident, despite the pendulum swing to the right, that the majority of society does care about — and hold accountable — organizations who conduct themselves in ways that damage the environment, discriminate against employees, cheat customers, etc.  Even if the court of law says these actions are technically legal, the court of public opinion will prevail in the form of fallen reputations, loss of profits and in some cases, businesses that are forced to close their doors.

Consider just a few examples from the past and today — Philip Morris and cigarettes, Hooker Chemical and Love Canal, W.R. Grace famously retold in "A Civil Action", and more recently, Volkswagen and BP Oil.  Sometimes these actions were legal — but eventually, these companies suffered for those actions and were deemed “unethical” if not “immoral”.  As society evolves and becomes more and more sensitive to "bad actors", it is even more critical that public relations have a seat at the management table to weigh in on business decisions, anticipate the issues that could take our organizations down and help to build the bank of goodwill that will keep reputations intact during a crisis situation.

Public relations practitioners today have the great responsibility of building and protecting organizational reputations over time.  We should be impacting decisions before they are made and warning leadership about actions that could hurt the organization in the future. It is our job to warn leadership of the long-term effects of bad decision-making.  Whether these actions are legal or not, the question is:  are they ethical? responsible? in the best interests of our organization in the long run? 

 Here are a couple of examples of businesses seeking regulatory rollback:

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/329664-chemical-companies-ask-epa-to-kill-pesticide-risk-study

https://thinkprogress.org/mats-delay-pruitt-trump-5c9ad958b44f

And some examples of companies trying to do the right thing:

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jan/10/donald-trump-climate-change-letter-businesses-investors

https://www.bna.com/industry-scrambles-save-n57982085162/

 

Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA
Senior Counsel & Partner, JJ&W

 

CLEAN OUT YOUR COMMUNICATIONS JUNK DRAWER WITH A COMMUNICATION AUDIT

It is a time for new beginnings, fresh thinking, purging files and finding different ways of doing things.  If you’ve been managing your communications function for a while — or, if you’ve recently inherited the position and found yourself asking, “why are we doing what we’re doing?” – it is a good time for an audit.

The word “audit” is a bit daunting, but really what we’re talking about is an evaluation of what you’re doing now to see if it is:

  • in line with your organization’s goals… your communication department’s goals should be directly aligned with those of your organization
  • meeting the needs of your stakeholders, because if it isn’t, then why are you doing it?
  • driving knowledge and behaviors so that stakeholders act on what has been communicated

A communications audit examines what you are doing now to assess what’s working and not working for your critical audiences.  It helps focus on communications vehicles and messaging that has the greatest impact.

JJ&W asks the following questions when conducting a communication audit:

  1. What does your organization’s communication system look like?  We look at how communication is flowing from the top down, the bottom up and across the organization (laterally).  Do you have a good balance of one-way and two-way communication tools?
  2. What audiences are you reaching with each communication tool? Have you asked these audiences how they would like to be communicated with, or are you just bombarding them from all directions and hoping something sticks?
  3. Have you accounted for the changing demographics of your target audiences? If you’re a utility who is geared toward communication with the senior generation, have you thought about how you might change things up to reach the millennials who are becoming your customers – and will be with you for a long time to come?  Are you communicating in the right languages (not actual languages but idioms of that generation)?
  4. Are the key messages resonating with your audiences? Are those messages driving understanding and behavior?
  5. How effective are your digital communication tools, including social media? Are your target audiences using and responding? Are they clear on where to get their “need to know” vs. their “nice to know” communication?
  6. Do all your communications look like they come from the same organization? Do they have an easily-recognizable family look & feel that immediately lets audiences know where to find information?
  7. Have you gotten the perspectives of more than the senior management team? Have you talked to the front-liners who may not be sitting at desks with computers to find out how, and if, they’re getting the communication they need to do their job?

And if you want to leverage the real power of communications… how about some questions to probe the culture at your organization?  Do people perceive they can “fail forward” or are they fearful of taking risks that might result in punishment?  Do they feel communication is transparent, or does leadership hold things “close to the vest?”

This is an excellent time to clean out your “communications junk drawer” – get rid of anything that’s not working and fill in the gaps with effective methods and messages that are right for the stakeholders you are trying to reach.

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com /603/770-3607.