Trust is the currency of leadership. It’s what inspires others to follow, support, and engage in a leader’s vision.
Words and images are powerful tools for building a company’s culture. And yet they are too often underused in business.
While mission and values are at the center of an organization’s culture-building language, a mantra can flesh those out. If, for example, excellence is one of your values, a mantra can focus attention on how excellence occurs.
Are you in the midst of layoffs? Budget-cuts? A merger or acquisition?
If you are downsizing, then you know the anxiety it produces among employees and the way it impacts morale, productivity, and customers. Communication during these times is a powerful tool that can help keep your employees engaged during difficult times. Here are 14 internal communication tips we’ve seen work during difficult times:
There’s no better way to bring your mission and values off your walls and into your halls than by showing your leaders and employees walking the talk.
And there’s no better communication tool than video to build a values-driven culture. Video can capture symbolic moments in which people bring values to life in authentic ways—and spread the role-modeling throughout the organization.
Custom Video Packages to Grow Your Business
Video is more likely to be viewed and remembered than all other media. It’s powerful, easy to share, mobile-friendly, and suitable for many different types of uses, from in-person events to social media.
We offer several video packages designed to grow your business and build your brand.
Build your brand internally and externally with the most effective tool available: video. This package can take many shapes—from showcasing your produce or service to a CEO message that unpacks the most powerful ideas behind your brand.
Mission, vision and values
Video is exploding as a tool for inspiring employees and customers with your company’s mission, vision or values. And for good reason: As Simon Sinek says, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Starting with the "why" is the best way to inspire both sales and employee engagement. This video package can feature your own employees, customers or donors talking about what your mission, vision and values mean to them—and brings your aspirations off the shelves and into the lives of real people.
Studies show that today’s consumer trusts his or her peers more than they do experts. So parlay this into making your business more successful by showcasing how you’re helping your customers. In this package, we capture a series of customers on-camera sharing their own experiences about why they love your company.
Ads aren’t the only way to engage your customers. Stories that show—rather than tell—what you’re about, why your work matters, and how you’re helping others create a powerful connection with your viewers. This package is ideal for showcasing stories that reveal compelling truths about your business.
Promote a service or product
Opening a new business? Launching a new service? In this video package, we showcase your product or service in ways that compel viewers to buy from you.
Need to explain a new service? Help customers get answers to common questions? Create content that establishes you as an online expert? Our explainer video package features whiteboards and similarly styled videos to make complex subjects simple and easy to follow.
CMBell offers individual custom videos in a wide variety of price points and styles—as well as the packages listed here.
You can grow your business
Trust is the currency of leadership. It’s what inspires others to follow, support, and engage in a leader’s vision.
But there is troubling news on this front: this precious asset is in steady decline, with only 37% of the general population saying that CEOs are credible, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, a global study with 33,000 respondents
This general mindset of distrust filters into the workforce of every organization—even into those with high trust factors. That’s why understanding how to use communication to build trust is such a timely skill to cultivate—and one that almost every leader can improve upon.
9 communication Strategies That Can Help a CEO Build Trust
1. Address your audience's biggest concerns.
Does your communication strategy include listening? Create ways to ask your employees what kinds of things they want to know more about—what questions they’d like answers to, what changes are causing them concern, what ideas they have for improvement, and what their biggest obstacles to success are. Then craft messages around these topics. When audiences see you’re engaged with them, they’ll be more engaged with you, which builds a trust relationship.
2. Deliver messages via peers—rather than leaders.
While employees need to hear from leaders, the trust study states that peers are now seen as credible as experts. This is a good time to initiate ways to have appropriate messages delivered by employees.
Consider the subject matter experts in your organization who can speak intimately about the day-to-day operations and topics your audience is most familiar with. Bringing the voices of in-house experts into the conversation can signal a unified workforce, so trusting the message doesn’t hinge on perceptions of any one messenger.
3. Communicate empathy, reassurance, and calm in the face of fear and uncertainty.
Emotions are contagious, and this is why leaders especially need to project calm, warmth, and hope in their communications. Employees pick up on fear in their leaders, and it can spread quickly through an organization.
Today's employee is dizzied by the speed of change, complexity of life and pervasiveness of communication—and as a result is often anxious. But rather than reacting to anxiousness, address the root causes in your communication. For example, a person’s worries about technology, immigration, centralization and globalization could all be tied back to a fundamental fear of job loss. Knowing the sources of these fears can help you craft messages that address the underlying issues.
Not all messages are innately reassuring, of course. But striking a calm, hopeful tone can help defuse unpleasant messages.
FEARS FURTHER ERODE BELIEF IN THE SYSTEM
Percent of respondents with each fear who also believe that the system is failing them —2017 Edelman Trust Barometer
4. Use truth to build trust.
It’s easy to avoid discussing harsh realities because of their unpleasantness, yet the short-term benefit of avoidance is outweighed by the long-term effect. Misinformation, incomplete information or withholding information eventually erodes trust—the most powerful human and organizational currency. As a leader, you influence truth-telling by modeling this behavior and rewarding it in your organization.
When delivering tough messages, couple them with a plan of action and the why behind the decision. Paint a picture of what’s possible if the plan is implemented, to give people a focal point.
5. Monitor the optics: Do behaviors match words?
Is there a gap between what your organization says and what it does? Consider designating a coach outside of the C-suite or the company who can see things with a fresh perspective, and have them review significant actions against your mission, vision, and values to ensure parity.
Zappos understands the significance of building a culture that is cohesive with a company’s words and values. As their CEO, Tony Hsieh, says: “Our belief is that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are just two sides of the same coin. The brand is just a lagging indicator of the culture.”
6. Deploy and train your middle managers as communicators.
Middle managers are the culture torchbearers, the influencers, and the tone-setters because they have more contact with both employees and leaders. It’s no wonder that communication from direct managers is the most effective channel for reaching employees, according to a CEB survey of more than 1,000 employees.
Provide your managers with communication training and tools and unleash them to do the important work of leadership armed with better skills and information. One CMBell client did this well when they focused a year-long communication initiative on leaders and conducted a survey at the end to determine its effectiveness. They found that their most important ideas had taken hold with their leadership team—with 9 out of 10 of them saying they better understood the why behind their work, knew more about their key strategies, and had a better understanding of the value of working together. From there, the managers could confidently reach the front-line staff with key messages they were already well-versed in.
7. Speak from your heart.
The Edelman study says that spontaneity and outspokenness make speakers more believable. Using your own voice and speaking about things that you care about conveys authenticity and builds trust.
Appropriate self-revelation creates connections, too. When delivering bad news, expressing your own sadness about it conveys empathy, which builds trust.
In this video example, the CEO broke from her standard business updates and delivered a message of inspiration that was based on her own personal experience and passion, generating enthusiastic responses from her internal audience. These kinds of messages can be important tools for building culture.
8. Use video when you can’t be there in person.
Video is perceived as more authentic than other media, according to a Viostream study. Viewers perceive fewer filters in video than in text, where words can be interpreted and misconstrued. Video also delivers additional and important communication through body language and tone of voice that can’t be conveyed as accurately in text alone.
Video can also be a very useful tool for delivering messages where precise language is essential. We recently worked with a client involved in a merger in a heavily regulated field where words had to be chosen carefully. A video message from the CEO allowed the message to be delivered directly to the audience using the precise language required by law.
And finally, video has the added advantage of being more personal and is the next best thing to being there—which is often impossible in large companies with a geographically distributed workforce. In video, leaders can convey both information and emotion, which can build trust.
9. Avoid corporate-speak.
Are you globally extending goal-oriented potentialities? Scaling intuitive partnerships? Building collaborative and idea-sharing modalities?
Even for employees who may understand it, jargon can make your message boring, less believable and can make you less accessible as a leader. Instead use short, simple words that can be widely understood.
How and where your message is displayed is just as important as the message.
Click below to see our infographic showing the best digital channels for employee communication.
When it comes to millennials, one of the most important actions employers can take to improve their engagement is to offer routine feedback. According to a recent Gallup report, only 19% of young workers state that they regularly receive feedback, and just 17% acknowledge that the feedback they get is meaningful.
This type of internal communication could involve technologies like Slack or others that connect managers and their teams with real-time feedback.
You can read more about the Gallup survey and how to engage your workforce here. The bottom line: millennials have grown up in a world of continuous feedback, which has deeply shaped their employment expectations. Employers who understand and respond to this will see higher employee engagement among this demographic.
You already believe in the power of story. You’ve seen how it can sell, persuade, compel, inspire—even better than a well-crafted argument. But are your stories helping you build your business?
If not, here are some possible reasons—and tips on what you can do about it:
You aren't being strategic about what stories you tell
Maybe you have a great patient story, for example, but it’s for a service line that isn’t a current area of strategic focus. Or maybe you have a story for your employees that doesn’t reinforce your key strategies, vision, or values. Prudent use of marketing dollars requires a direct link between the stories you’re telling and your business goals.
To create stories that grow your business, create a table and list all your core messages and strategies—then beside each list a high-level story idea that directly links back to each. For example, if you want to convey your commitment to quality, look for an area in your organization where your quality is impressive.
Use this list to scout stories and to identify specific customers, employees, or events that fit your story idea. Maybe it’s the journey of an internal team to improve a process, or a client story about how the quality initiative impacted them.
Track progress on your table and do a year-end review to see what worked—and where you want to improve.
You don’t have a story scout
Before a story is told, it has to be found. Most companies don’t have a person devoted to this important excavational work—and, very often, people in the midst of a good story don’t even realize it is one. In health care, we see this all the time. This sacred interchange between patient and physician is just what the physician does. She does not see it as noteworthy. Someone with fresh eyes has to awaken this mindset in an organization, teach its teams how to recognize a good story, and provide a way to get it from the front lines to your storytellers.
Assign the task of “story scout” to one of your in-house marketing or communication professionals, and give them the goal of creating the plan (above) and reporting on its progress each month.
Make a list of possible story ideas and share them with your front-line people, to help them think like a story scout.
Make it easy to submit story ideas—and offer some small reward for ones that are published.
You aren’t using the right medium
Video is the most visually rich way to deliver a story. It takes the words from the page and brings them to life with motion, sound, and images—giving the viewer’s brain a rich experience. We know that the addition of motion alerts the human brain, and this is activated in video in ways that text and still images cannot compete with.
If budget is a concern, set aside some of your communication and marketing budget for video production—even if it means shifting resources from other good projects. Today’s consumer demands it.
Shop for a video package rather than a single video. You can save thousands of dollars by shooting several videos over a day or two—rather than doing them one at a time. Videographers often require a half-day or even one-day minimum for a shoot, and by batching projects you can save money.
You don’t have an expert storyteller
A story can be inherently good, but tell it poorly, and it will not do the work of conveying the message you want. Storytelling is an art that requires experts who have devoted their careers to it, so finding the right talent to do this is imperative. Not all writers are storytellers. Not all video editors are storytellers. A storyteller can use different tools, but good ones understand the arc of an effective story and know how to deliver it in their medium.
Identify talent within or outside of your organization. The best way to judge this is to see their work—if the story keeps your interest and produces the desired emotional response, it’s been done by a storyteller you can trust.
Engage them for one trial assignment, to see if their process and product works for you.
Have them do a pre-shoot phone interview with the person they’ll be interviewing on-camera, to be sure the story is solid.
Be clear on your goals, budget, and timeframe—before you start the job.
You aren’t getting the story to the right people
All too often, a video is produced and put up on your website—and it is left to chance whether the right people will see it. To get the most for your investment, look for ways to repurpose it. How many social media outlets can you use it on? Are there other areas of your website—like recruiting—that could use it? Are there events, staff meetings, or retreats for employees, board members, or customers where it could be shown? There are multiple tools and methods to help you with the digital promotion of a video, as well, so if you don’t have the expertise in-house to help with this, hire someone who does. It will pay off in increased traffic.
When your video story is done, don’t call the project done until you make and execute a plan to get it in front of the right people.
Make a list of every social media channel you have that you could post your video on.
Make a list of events where the video could be shown. Consider employee forums, departmental meetings, employee events, orientation, board meetings, and fund-raising events.
Review your website to see if the video can be used on multiple pages. For example, a video about quality could be on a recruiting page, an "about us" page, a quality page, and a home page.
Work with an expert—in-house or outside—who can help you create digital strategies to improve traffic to your videos.
When Vineet Nayar joined HCL Technologies as the CEO, he vowed to transform it into a company where employees were first—and customers were second.
Nayar believed that if he could inspire his people to pursue a vision which they owned and which still aligned with the company’s, magic would happen. And his experiment proved him right.
On this premise, he set to work to make it one of the fastest-growing and most profitable global IT services as well as one of the 20 most influential companies in the world.
But it required challenging the conventional wisdom that the customer is always right.
While at some level, this commonly heard business maxim speaks truth, in application it can lead to deadly results for employee engagement if we don't talk about where the line drawn on customer behavior.
As Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5, tells it, Southwest drew a line with a frequent flyer who consistently complained about things that were simply part of their business model—like no assigned seats, no first class, no in-flight meals, and the casual atmosphere.
Wearied by her repeated tirades, Southwest's customer relations people eventually sent her comments on to then-CEO Herb Kelleher, who replied: "Dear Mrs. X, We will miss you. Love, Herb."
“Believing the customer is always right is a subconscious way of favoring the customer over the employee which can lead to resentment among employees. … Put employees first and they will be happy at work," says Kjerulf.
It is not too low of a bar to expect civility of both employees and customers, and yet most of us have witnessed the lack of it too many times in the workplace. As is often the case, the challenge is in the execution. It can feel a lot like refereeing siblings in a "he started it, she started it" squabble. But, as leaders, we're called to adjudicate these situations to determine whether an employee's behavior wrongly incited a frustrated customer, or whether a customer is being unreasonable, rude, or insulting.
To preserve a workplace with high engagement, a business must live its values—not just talk about them. This could mean walking away from some clients if their behavior does not allow the company to live up to its values of treating its own people with respect. Tolerating rude, insulting, or abusive behavior by customers drains the energy of employees and lowers morale. It effectively tells the employee that they do not deserve better treatment from others.
It's important to think about where popular ideas like "the customer is always right" reach their limits. Intuitively, we know that treating people well and providing a work environment that isn't hostile can help them flourish. This kind of environment unleashes loyalty, creativity, and the desire to take better care of the customers. In the end, respecting and retaining top employees not only impacts engagement, but ensures that your customers have the very best people attending to them.