Making Change Communication Effective

Usually, when organisations communicate change, it’s done in a standard, one-size-fits-all manner. Leaders announce the change through email or meetings, without much consideration for feedback or tailoring messages to different audiences. This kind of approach, which I call “vanilla” messaging, lacks impact and comfort during periods of change.

Communication plays a crucial role in change management, and crafting an effective change communication plan requires effort. To move away from vanilla planning and achieve desired behaviour changes, leaders should treat communication about change like an internal marketing campaign. Essentially, they’re “selling the change” to employees. Once this mindset shift happens, creating a change communications plan becomes easier by applying proven marketing principles.

Research in change management consistently shows that appealing to both intellect and emotions is necessary for lasting behavioural change. Communication plays a pivotal role in tapping into people’s emotions. However, discussing emotions openly isn’t common in traditional workplaces. It’s uncomfortable, emotions are complex, and they can vary widely. This is perhaps why organisations haven’t fully embraced using marketing techniques to sell their changes.

Communication about a significant change starts long before formal planning. Often, it begins when rumours about the change start circulating. Rumours are emotionally charged and spread quickly.

So, borrowing from marketing tactics, organisations can initiate “teaser campaigns” to build anticipation and excitement around the change. For instance, if rolling out a new software like Office 365, teaser messages hinting at improved productivity could be used to generate interest.

Once the teaser campaign is launched, gathering information becomes crucial for creating effective messages. Leaders need to address key questions:

1.       What’s changing?

  • Describe the change in simple, understandable terms, avoiding technical jargon.
  • Example: Office 365 is a new email and social networking software by

2.       When is the change happening?

  • Provide a timeline without specifying an exact date too early in the project.
  • Example: You will start using Office 365 in the fourth quarter of

3.       What’s the change impact?

  • Understand the audience and tailor messages
  • Example: Middle managers can encourage employees to attend training sessions and use Office 365

4.       Why should employees change?

  • Appeal to emotions and highlight how the change will benefit
  • Example: Emphasise how Office 365 will streamline tasks and improve efficiency.

Maintaining regular contact with audiences is vital to keep them engaged and informed throughout the change process. Without consistent communication, gaps are filled with uncertainty and negativity. Encouragement and trust are built through ongoing communication efforts, including messages of support and occasional giveaways, which can boost morale during times of change.