Launching new software? Making loads of people redundant? Whatever your project is doing, you’ll have to make some announcements some time. In her book, Communicating Projects, Ann Pilkington sets out a simple 6-step process for making any announcement on your project. It’s foolproof, so if you’ve ever wondered how to get your message across effectively, read on.
#1: Understand the message
What is it that you are saying? Make sure that you understand the implications of the message. An announcement about your project closing an office will generate questions about who is losing their jobs, so pre-empt anything like that and make sure that your message is clear.
You can test it on some colleagues before moving on if you’d like a fresh pair of eyes on the topic.
#2: Identify the audience
Who is receiving the message? This is likely to be a number of people across a few different stakeholder groups. They are probably people who have already been identified as part of your stakeholder management activity, but you may be communicating to groups outside of this. It’s always best to double check and the general rule is to communicate too widely, not too narrowly. If in doubt, include a group in the communication!
#3: Plan the messages
What do they want to know? You may have to develop slightly different versions of the message for each stakeholder group. Of course, the key message needs to be identical – you can’t tell one group that the project will complete in August and another that it completes in December. But you can be consistent while making sure that each stakeholder groups hears the information that is most relevant to them.
#4: Check the legalities
Pilkington stresses that you should check the regulations governing the announcement. Can you announce your new commercial contract or is it subject to stock market regulations? She says that in the UK announcements that could affect the share price must go to the stock market first.
Check if there is anything like this that could affect the content or timing of your message. Your internal communications team, PR department or Legal team can help with this.
#5: Pick the channel
How are you going to get the message across? There are lots of different options to choose from: town hall-style meetings, face-to-face individual meetings, newsletters, email bulletins, posters and so on. You may have to use several channels to reach everyone, especially if some of your stakeholders do not regularly use computers.
#6: Agree the timings
When are you going to send this announcement out? Ideally, all groups should get it at the same time, but if you are managing the communication on a face-to-face basis then this might not be possible. Make sure that you factor in enough time to get the message approved and through any internal communication processes. And check that it doesn’t clash with any other critical or corporate messages – you don’t want news about your project to get overlooked because of something else being sent out on the same day.
There will always be someone who doesn’t get the message in a timely fashion, because they were off that day or in an all-day workshop or something. They might feel disgruntled at first, but if you can show that you’ve made the best effort to communicate appropriately then you should be able to manage any bad feeling.