Bland versus Brand – your choice.

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Branding and communications. Give your project an identity to bring the change alive.

We humans resent unwanted advice, especially when it threatens our comfort zones. Simply telling employees about change can create resistance.  People need to understand why the change is happening and how they can participate in that change; they need to feel they have choices.  To understand it, it must be presented to them coherently.

The adoption element of a change programme needs to be tackled like a campaign. Giving your programme an identity and linking it to strategic objectives brings it to life. It helps people understand the ‘end goal’ and how the project fulfils the long term vision for the company.

It’s important not to underestimate your campaign. One lonely email about the change will not do. People have to be exposed to a message multiple times before they ‘hear’ it. This is a theory known as ‘effective frequency’ which advertisers understand very well.  The grandfather of advertising psychology, Thomas Smith, wrote in his 1885 book “Successful Advertising” that people do not even read an ad until the 5th time they see it and it isn’t until the 20th time they see an advertisement they buy (or in this case buy into) what it’s offering.

There are a few recommendations we always make to our customers when they’re considering how to get their people to buy-into a change:  – we call them our ‘golden rules’, here are four key steps to help employees choose your technological change:

Choose a name – first impressions count

Think about how you want to present your programme. Give it a name. If a project is important, it’s worth naming and following branding principles, in the same way you would brand a product or service. Make sure the name means something – we’ve known projects named after trees leaving employees confused as to what the project is. Think about imagery – a programme to move to a modern, mobile way of working should use imagery depicting the same. Use banners, graphics, logos and icons to get people’s attention and thread these through every project communication, interaction and engagement. Give people something to remember.

Choose your channels

Understand the different ways you can communicate with your employees. Email is an obvious one, but many of us get bombarded every day and suffer ‘email fatigue’. To make your email communication heard, it has to stand out. Don’t rely on email as the only channel. Team meetings, town halls, canteen tray inserts, business TV, intranet, posters, leadership bulletins, – use them all. Different people will consume the campaign from different channels. One size does not fit all.

Choose your imagery Make it visual

If your change impacts people at various points, use pictures to illustrate the story. Imagery is much more memorable and people are much more likely to remember what they’re being told. We call this, the user journey. Make sure it focusses on the user. Don’t assume people necessarily care about the effort and investment you’ve made in your IT infrastructure. That’s part of your journey, not the average user, who typically cares about how they do their job.

Choose your words – plan what to say

A project needs a communications strategy that persuades your employees of the benefits of the change. It introduces and explains the key messages and then reinforces them. You have to plan what you’re going to say and when. It needs to tie in with the project delivery timescales, so if you’re migrating people to Office 365 over a certain weekend, make sure you are communicating in the run up to it. Tell people what to expect, how to get support, what skills and knowledge they might need to use the new tools effectively and how they access training. Include your ‘call to actions’ – if you need people to do something, know when that point is and time your communications accordingly.

The Future IT (FIT) programme

Inform worked with the University of Law to help its new CIO establish an identity for him and his project – The Future IT Programme or FIT.  The name gave us a fun way of communicating what many employees can perceive as a “dry” message.  FIT had a visual identity – its own logo, banner, and imagery. As few existing channels of communication existed, they created new ones and established the programme as a recognisable brand within the University. Inform developed a regular Flash email, a dedicated microsite explaining objectives, features and benefits of the programme, a visual timeline of who would experience change at what point and an ever-evolving set of frequently asked questions.

Two years later and Inform are working with the same customer on other projects, however the FIT programme is still famous. Not only did it serve the purpose of getting people on board with their move to Office 365, but it gave both the new CIO and the IT function an identity and a direct channel of communication to the organisation, which has continued to work for them beyond the original scope.

Summary

Branding and communicating a project helps build a positive image and emotion when a person hears of it. But what it really does is help people understand and accept your change, so they are willing to change the way they work for you to realise the value of your investment.

Think about your last project… did you give it a brand, or was it bland? And what will you do in future?

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