employee benefits communication tips
Employee Benefits

‘Stay in Your Lane, Bro’

Mark Fitzgibbons
Mark Fitzgibbons
Communication Director, Employee Benefits

A current ad series from AT&T demonstrates the importance of not settling for just OK. In OK Surgeon, for example, a patient learns some disconcerting information about his doctor. Other spots include a restaurant offering OK sushi, a less-than-stellar babysitter, and a mechanic with a troubling saying about brakes.

My favorite is OK tattoo parlor. In it, the artist tells a man getting his first tattoo that he’s “one of the tattoo artists in the city” and that the result is going to look “OK.” When the man asks if the artist should draw the tattoo design first, the artist replies, “Stay in your lane, bro” and starts his needlework.

The campaign’s tagline “Just OK is not OK” also applies to my lane (communicating with employees), and while a stray typo or bland email won’t ruin anyone’s life, poor communication can erode trust, tarnish credibility, and sink employee morale. It can sow seeds of mistrust, and it saps engagement and productivity.

To avoid annoying your people and stoking internal confusion with mediocre messaging, include these five Cs as you create your communication plans for 2019:

Be Confident. Companies often distribute “educational” communication that assumes employees will understand it, analyze it, determine how it affects them personally, and then act on it appropriately. They won’t.

Vague and nondescript messages often cause more trouble than they’re worth. It makes it seem like you’re hiding something. Instead, help your employees out. Stand up straight, communicate confidently, and be transparent. Provide some context and spell out clear, specific directions, feedback, and explanations of where the company is heading. Even when the news is bad, this can reassure employees and steady the ship.

Be Consistent. Does your company communicate haphazardly? Consistency (in tone and timing) is crucial across all channels — even on social media. If you communicate on an ad hoc basis or if your employees don’t hear from you for long stretches, the rumor mill becomes the primary driver of internal communications. Silence breeds worry.

Instead, regularly set the tone with consistent — but not incessant — messaging that reassures, encourages, engages, and edifies employees.

Be Concise. Brevity is beautiful. Do your employees a favor and keep your messages short. Videos, emails, articles, town halls, company updates, budget meetings, project recaps…there’s no need for any of these things to be long-winded. Being concise conveys respect. 

Be Compassionate. Corporate communications often feature all the personality, warmth, and humanity of a Roomba. Communicating with heartfelt compassion lets employees know they’re valued and respected members of the team — instead of replaceable cogs in the business machine.

Just as marketers use personalization to cozy up to potential customers, internal communications should be tailored pieces to accommodate employees’ tastes and preferences. It’s an easy way to craft engaging communications.

Be Colorful. Clean copy is great and branding is important, but messaging must also be memorable. Prioritize stunning design, use plenty of visuals, and don’t shy away from genuine emotions. Tell fun, engaging stories about colorful characters and colleagues.

Obviously, no one’s winning Pulitzers writing about this year’s benefit plans. However, every touchpoint with employees is a chance to build trust, affinity, and engagement. And that’s a great way to stay in your lane…bro!

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