7 Simple Hacks to a Great Communications Plan

I am going to give you access to some great communication planning strategies to drive, motivate and sustain all of your recognition initiatives.

I have seen over 70 nomination submissions from leading companies from around the world vying for the best overall recognition program awards conducted for Recognition Professionals International (RPI).

Two of the best practice standards that can often be the lowest scoring by our teams of judges are: Communication Planning and Recognition Training.

I am going to share with you what has impressed me, and my fellow judges, when we see Communication Planning done the right way.

So here are my 7 hacks to a great recognition oriented communications plan.

  1. Know Your Communication Gaps
  2. Establish an Overall Purpose with Clear Objectives
  3. Know Who Your Communicating To
  4. Be Aware of Your Available Channels
  5. Create Your Annual Editorial Calendar
  6. Have Fun With Different Communication Vehicles
  7. Review and Measure Your Results

Let’s go through each of them and see what you can apply.

1. Know Your Communication Gaps

It is important to know what is already going on with messaging, and available communication channels without you knowing or what your communications department is putting out and you had no idea about. Ask across different departments and find out what they are doing independently of corporate.

Meet with communication team members who always want to support recognition initiatives. Conduct focus groups with different audience members to know what works best for them. Discuss with management what support they need to be more effective with recognition giving and how resources and tools could be better tailored to help them.

And don’t hesitate to use a survey if your employees have not been surveyed to death yet. Ask them how effective different communication methods are and seek their recommendations for promoting and supporting recognition giving.

2. Establish an Overall Purpose and Clear Objectives

Those organizations that articulate an overall purpose, the shining light in the sky, have a one-focus area to shoot for in getting recognition right where they work. Then it is just a matter of establishing realistic goals to address the gaps you found out from assessing existing communication activities or setting a whole new direction.

How will you encourage positive recognition practices so they become a way of life at your company? Perhaps you need PostIt® Notes with pre-printed messages, note cards to express appreciation, or covered chocolate bars with themed thoughts. And likely you need a spokesperson in an executive sponsor who can lead out with their words and ideas.

What can you do to improve participation of company recognition programs? Line up the website content carefully and consider screen capture or short video materials to show how easy and how important using these programs are.

By centralizing communication efforts you can assure messaging is consistent and holds fast to your core purpose.

3. Know Who Your Communicating To

It is essential to know the different audience members you are trying to influence through your communication efforts.

I remember in one Tech Company it was very easy to think solely of IT and engineers in the visible offices you visited. But the invisible audience of employees in tech manufacturing plants in global locations required different messaging, through different channels, and at different time frequencies.

Managers need to know how meaningful and positive relationships between them and their employees affects employee perceptions of how real their recognition efforts are.

Still, having posters up reminding you to take time out to appreciate your colleagues, or tent cards in the cafeteria telling you of the different professional groups’ awareness weeks or months, all help to keep recognition giving of others top of mind.

4. Be Aware of Available Channels

Head office tends to have LCD Screen TVs in the lobby or in conspicuous places in high traffic areas highlighting achievements of people and the company.

You need to use stortytelling to give examples of employees who may not have made high performance achievements but are simply serving people the way your values suggest you should. Capture these stories, send them out for sharing in pre-shift meetings or regular staff meetings. You need heroes that are examples of living the way you do things in your company and honouring exemplars of great recognition giving to others.

Provide online templates for cuing people to submit stories. Give leaders and managers tangible printed or online guides for giving more authentic recognition. Use your intranet site as a repository of tools and techniques and training resources to get better at valuing your employees’ contributions.

Plan out carefully what is realistic with your people, time and financial resources.

5. Create Your Annual Editorial Calendar

I am used to responding to magazine editorial calendars to know what topic needs to be covered in a specific month and to cue things up so I am writing it well ahead of time for edits and rewrites.

Companies that can create a similar calendaring for all their recognition communications can make their lives so much easier. You’ll know from your objectives what tasks and messaging you need to reinforce. You can vary out the topics and approaches much easier when you plan it out for the whole year.

And it helps to see when national holidays happen and when specific company employee appreciation events and anniversaries occur too.

By having everything planned out you can also batch schedule similar activities or communication pieces all at one time even though they are not being used until scheduled on the calendar.

6. Have Fun With Different Communication Vehicles

Yep, I’ve seen it all.

Names emblazoned on billboards, personalized parking spots, messages on chocolate bars, vanity license plates, branded Post It® Notes, email campaigns, themed posters, and video messages from CEOs.

Identify the messaging tools you already have available to you and figure out what your budget permits you to do.

A small college may only be able to do printed cards, messaged chocolate bar wrappers, and keep up and online site for tips and ideas.

A glitzy casino entertainment center uses everything from daily communiqués to billboards and limousines for employee of the year awards.

Both accomplish their goals and get the recognition message out the best way they can.

7. Review and Measure Your Results

No point in doing all your communication blitzes, planned activities and messaging if they are not effective.

So build in some methods to find out if what you are doing works. Solicit input from recipients on how effective each communication piece was and did it achieve its goal. Get feedback at management groups as well as staff meetings. Best to get the scoop now so you can improve future communication initiatives.

Ideally, review things on a monthly basis. But, if resources are slim, see what you can do on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. And of course you will have your annual review of all your activities to see if you achieved your initial purpose and all of your goals.

Getting a communication plan together might take a few days to put together after you have done your research on needs and current state of communication practices.

It is all worth it to help demonstrate your company’s desire to value the contributions of everyone you work with.

Question: What is the most effective communication method you use to emphasize the importance of recognition giving?

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