Remember the game of telephone you probably played as a kid? You and your friends sit in a group, and one person starts the game by whispering something to their neighbor. That kid whispers what they heard to their neighbor, and on and on until the message makes its way back to the original messenger. Unfailingly, the final message is very different from the original one, and the group of kids collapse in laughter and disbelief at how a simple message can quickly become unrecognizable.
As professionals, we play a grown-up version of the same game, but the communication methods are more complex and if the end message comes out jumbled and, even worse, WRONG, the end result can lead to serious consequences. In fact, studies show that lack of communication leads to rumors, speculation, misinformation and even lack of trust that spreads inside and outside of the organization.
Anglin PR recently wrote a communications plan for Church of the Servant. The church needed to convey several important messages to their congregation, but they had several obstacles they had to overcome first. As the COVID-19 pandemic was overtaking the world and upheavals surrounding race and inequality were affecting the nation and state, the congregation, like everyone else, was receiving confusing and frightening mixed messages from media, health professionals and leaders. In addition, the church wasn’t meeting in person, so messages specifically from the church to its congregation had different topics, timing, and delivery methods. And those messages often got lost in the noise of other immediate messages coming from health and government leaders.
Here’s how Anglin PR helped the church take control of their messages and direct them to their audiences.
1. Define the brand
Define what your organization stands for, who it exists for and what it values. Use a small team to reflect and write down those definitions, share them with leadership and key audiences and repeat them consistently in ongoing communications. These guiding values will be a foundation in times of smooth sailing as well as unpredictability.
2. Identify audiences and their communication preferences
Where do my audiences come from?
What information do they want from my organization?
How do they react when they hear or read the information?
The answers to these questions help you recognize and distinguish different audiences and learn about their communication preferences and habits so you can target specific messages for them. We suggested the Church have a regular leadership meeting where they discuss what congregation members are talking about and identify important topics to address.
3. Build a relationship with your audience
Whether it’s an encouraging message or important take-action news, audiences want to be in the loop and hear directly from leaders. Create and share content that is personal and authentic, reflects the brand and is relevant and timely. This helps create and maintain trust and inclusion, even from far away.
Without a communication plan, your messages can start to vary just a little with every communication, leading to the confusion and muddled clarity experienced in the game of telephone. But taking the time to create a vision and strategy for your communications can help make sure the original message is clear and delivered consistently every time.