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  • Claire Rowland

Can a "Model" help you to develop your team and marketing communication strategy?

When we are ‘lost’ as a result of a disruptive change, it is wise to ask, “what are the countermeasures we can take, that can help us to make sense of what to do next?”

Below is a Change Management Model (fig1). You may recognise it.

We shouldn’t expect to progress from one phase to the next, like crossing a stream on steppingstones. We all move back and forth along this curve, based upon the external information we are fed by our family & friends, our employers/clients, the media etc, as well as our own internal emotional compass. Often, we will feel a mixture of these emotions; one of my lovely clients described herself as “... feeling quite angry, but then I have outbursts of depression and understanding all within the same week!” This is what makes us human and different from each other. We are complicated.

Keeping Seth Godin’s wise words in mind*. Here are some thoughts on this change model, and how it could be applied to your TEAM and CUSTOMER/PROSPECT communication. It’s a start...

NB: This has been written for, and therefore is most relevant to, middle management marketing team leaders. Some have been furloughed, but many have not. There is a lot of noise/advice / articles for business leaders, but there's little for those managers handling the day to day, trying to keep their team engaged (from afar) and their brand alive with content that portrays their best intentions.

(fig. 1)

DENIAL

We are looking for evidence that proves it isn’t true. We should create alignment and reassure. Be communicative. Be clear on the facts and what is happening, using trusted and official sources such as the business leader of your organisation, industry associations, employment lawyers and the Government. Be clear on who it affects and what the benefits are.

TEAM - Once the message has been delivered, give your team room to breathe, think and express their thoughts (anonymously if needs be) and feedback on how you can or cannot help. CUSTOMERS/PROSPECTS - Ensure you have made it clear how they can communicate back to you/your team and when they should expect a response. Ensure your social and voice channels are very responsive to customers, prospects, and yes, the industry if they ask. We are in this together, sharing in these strange times is caring. What you give, you will receive in return.

FRUSTRATED & FEARFUL

We recognise that things are different and that can make us angry. To support we mustn’t go quiet or hide. We should maximise communication and touchpoints.

TEAM - Use informal communication tools such as Facebook groups, WhatsApp and video calls. When people feel fear and are frustrated, they need to be listened to. Don’t worry about having a solid plan and outcomes from those conversations. If they want to complain, let them.

CUSTOMERS/PROSPECTS - Listen and try to segment your customers dependent upon need – do they have an order or future booking with you? Are they worried about their own business continuity or their wedding or future leisure break? Segmenting was hard before. It's become even harder but it’s even more important. Check your copy to ensure you are maintaining a reassuringly familiar tone. Many brands have copied and pasted “statements” from others, no doubt to ensure accuracy, but with a little more effort, you can have a tone that is reassuringly familiar. Importantly don’t be quiet, be relevant and share new information (no need to repeat). Insights show that consumers want to know you’re looking after your employees but I am not convinced “a message from our CEO” is required in a B2C email targeting past hotels guests with no future bookings, it’s too unfamiliar (I’ve had at least 3 of these in the last week). Don’t worry that you won’t have all the answers for your current bookers /customers, none of us does. If you are present, responsive, honest and fair, they will travel with you on this journey.

DESPONDENCY

When this phase sets in, we are low in mood and truly lacking in energy. We can help by triggering motivation. Understand what is holding people back. But motivation isn’t everything, sometimes people need to develop the capability to deal with the change. Try to understand and look for what motivates different people. 

TEAM - Encourage new thinking. Ensure they know that because BAU has gone, the so-called "corporate rules" have been relaxed.  Make suggestions but don’t have your expectations too high. Is it the team is WFH or is it your team is at home during a crisis, trying to work?! People need time.

  • Create a buddy system, where they check up on each other, mix up the pairings each week

  • Someone may be a natural fit for volunteering – highlight their qualities, make them feel good

  • Encourage them to train or coach each other even if only to keep themselves occupied

Do something to help people break out of the funk. For your furloughed team members, there could be time to kill or they just need help to find meaning in their day. The something that is missing from their lives is personal (don’t assume you know what it is) it could be order, structure, process, the chance to be recognised, appreciated, valued. Can you help them to fill these voids?

CUSTOMERS/PROSPECTS - Give them something to look forward to. Provide activities they can do now. E.g. For your celebration customers, can you send them a small celebration care package? Their birthday/anniversary will still happen, it just won’t be celebrated in the way they planned. Can you offer past repeat guests a chance to win a future break? Ideas are often all your need to provide. Find partners to work with or recommend other brands – for example, are the Attractions near your venue/hotel doing something fun on social media? Think, “how can you make them smile?” A great example is an email I received from The Adventure People (fig.2.). With suggestions on how to go for a self-guided adventure in my own home. I’ll not do any of them (as they’re a bit crazy!), the images are not crisp and beautifully shot, I’m not ready to buy, but I will remember them positively.


(fig.2)

UNDERSTANDING & EXPERIMENT This stage is the initial engagement with the new situation. It’s perfect for a “safe to fail” mindset and can help develop capability.

TEAM - Encourage people to use this time to practice (new & old) skills. Innovation and collaboration don't happen by chance; you need to enable it. Encourage fresh thinking, blue sky ideas for the now and the future. This doesn’t need to be specific to your business/organisation – provide a challenge just for the fun of it. Create a book-sharing initiative. This practice will create a new or renewed mindset and help the culture of a team that could be even more agile in the future. CUSTOMERS/PROSPECTS - People can do things within the security of their own homes. For the wedding party – can they all learn a “group dance” to do on the day?  Can your chefs teach how to create the perfect souffle? How about cocktail making? HospoLive on Facebook demonstrated a great French Martini using good ole Ribena!

ACCEPTANCE AND DECISION MAKING

Learning how to live and work with the new situation, feeling more positive about their “role”

TEAM - Get teams to share stories. Encourage them to showcase what they’ve done. Reward if appropriate, it doesn’t have to be financial recognition – often this isn’t recognised as most wanted.  CUSTOMERS/PROSPECTS - Get customers to share their stories. Celebrate and reward those that have engaged / repeatedly engaged. User-generated content is gold-dust for your brand awareness. How can you encourage this and ensure it fits your brand message? A great example is KFC. Look at how crazy their twitter feed is. Through the encouragement of asking their followers and fans to recreate KFC chicken whilst their restaurants are closed. Hilton has shared their famous cookie recipe too.

IN SUMMARY It’s helpful to understand where you, your community (be it your team or customers) are, on this journey.

One of my caring clients have created a survey online for their employees and shared it on a newly created private FB group. The survey is completely anonymous, they’re a multi-site hospitality business (all of their sites are completely closed), and they purposely don’t ask which site the employee works at. They want honest feedback, thoughts and feeling. They will send it out once a month to see how sentiment is changing. Very easily the stats can be interpreted, and trends can show, among other insights, where they are on their journey as a community, which helps the management team to structure their content (and tone) accordingly. 

From the tone on social media (LinkedIn specifically), it appears that more brands and individuals are heading into the Experimental phase.  For example, the number of emails and sponsored social posts for virtual events is growing daily. We now must choose which virtual networking sessions, briefings and workshops are the most important to avoid diary clashes! From a consumer point of view, more restaurants are reopening with delivery-only service. “We” are starting to experiment and adapt.

We shouldn’t become too comfortable, this may be a trend, but it’s not “everyone”. And, it only takes another announcement from the Government and scientists to knock us back. There are hotels holding bookings for arrivals in June. If the lockdown is extended further, then there will be guests that are despondent as this crisis continues to impact their lives. Now is the time to have a comms plan for an extended lockdown. It’s time to choose your strategy – will you be proactive and contact those guests soon to say you’re on their side and explain what your planned response will be? Or do you build reactive comms, so that as soon as there is an announcement you are ready to communicate before customers contact your customer service team? Both are acceptable, just don’t be the brand that does nothing other than “hope we’ll be back before then”.

Using this model, how will your comms change internally with your team/s and with your customers? What would you like to see it terms of your brand sentiment in a few weeks? Within your role and responsibilities, whether it’s your team or your customers, it’s how you “make people feel” that’s important.

*Seth Godin is the reason this article/post has been published. It was in "draft" for two weeks. You see, I like to be specific, use details and ultimately be relevant. Writing an article about a Change Management Model didn't “feel right”. On the other hand, I got value from this model so I should share... shouldn’t I?  #impostersyndrome at its best. Then I received an email from Seth Godin (I’m a subscriber, it wasn’t personal!).  He wrote “All models are wrong; some models are useful... A model is a stripped-down approximation of what might be happening...but it’s better to begin with something that makes sense”.

So, channelling my #innerSethGodin, here are some thoughts following a Change Management Model, and how it could be applied to your TEAM and CUSTOMER/PROSPECT communication. It’s a start...

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