CEO Communication Requires Strategic Intent and Persistence

This is a message CEOs need to hear over and over again…

There are two keys to translating communication into action:

1. Strategic intent
2. Persistence

Many executives are perplexed when their message doesn’t translate into action. They are dumbfounded by the lack of “retention” that exists up and down their organization. Most executives feel like they have communicated the same message over and over again … and it still does not translate into the desired action or outcomes.

Many times, this is because they are communicating the … exact same message … over and over again. Their messaging strategy is one-dimensional. It is not aligned with the learning and adoption curve that is required to translate words into action.

For your message to convert into desired actions, you must communicate in phases. You need to deliver the message with the strategic intent of moving your audience from:

Context: What is this about and why is it important?
Understanding: What does it mean for the company, our customers, etc.?
Internalization: How does this impact me and why should I care?
Application: How do I apply this in a meaningful and relevant way in my job?
Operationalization: How does this change the way my team operates moving forward?

The core message remains constant; it is simply wrapped in a story that is intentionally designed to move your employee from one phase to the next. And, just to be clear … no, you can’t move your audience through the learning and adoption curve by addressing all of these in one long message.

This leads us to the second key to success: Persistence. Most executives underestimate the sustained communication effort required to translate a message into consistent action. Whether it pertains to changes in the business model, new offerings, strategic initiatives … most CEOs are communicating messages that are critically important and many times complex. That’s why you must realize that your employees are inundated with messages every day … from every direction. Persistence is the only way you will get your message across.

Some believe the “Rule of 7” applies. You have to deliver a message seven times before the desired behavior is activated. However, Microsoft recently conducted a study designed to measure the optimal number of exposures required for audio messages to stick. The study showed that messages must be communicated between six and 20 times to achieve the desired result.

No, this doesn’t mean simply sending one to two messages for each phase of the learning and adoption curve is the answer (2 x 5 = 10). It means you utilize the repetition and frequency that is required to move your audience from one phase of the adoption curve to the next.

For instance, providing your audience with “Context” may only require one to two messages. However, establishing “Understanding” may require two or three; “Internalization” may require three or four; “Application” eight to 10; and “Operationalization” may demand 10 to 20.

Many factors come into play with respect to communication repetition and frequency. The complexity of the message; the hierarchy of your organization; the number of unique audience segments you must reach; the measurable results that are actually being attained, etc.

The next time you plan to activate strategic initiatives, share critically important messages, or change the mindset of employees across your organization – ask yourself …

Where is my organization on the learning and adoption curve?
What is my strategic intent with this particular message?
What repetition and frequency is required?

The key to success is anchoring your communications plan in strategic intent and persistence. Only then will your words (messages) translate into the actions and outcomes you want to see in the business.

By | 2017-05-03T13:58:15+00:00 May 3, 2017|Categories: Communication Strategy|

About the Author:

With more than 25 years experience building collaborative relationships with executive teams, Jim brings a wealth of knowledge to every client engagement. O’Gara has spent thousands of hours formulating winning go-to-market strategies and stories for dozens of Fortune 100 companies and hundreds of high-growth businesses. O’Gara’s expertise in go-to-market strategy development, customer research, corporate messaging and positioning, customer experience management as well as customer-centric culture development has earned him the respect of executives around the world. Over the years, his ability to breakdown business, marketing and customer experience challenges in complex industries (such as healthcare, technology and professional services) has been invaluable to CEOs and CMOs at a number of leading companies.