2020 mission accomplished?


Having a five-year 2020 vision back in 2015 was almost too good an opportunity to resist for most business leaders.

The world was awash with 2020 vision statements, often supported by images of clarity and perfect horizons. And, hands up, we at Thirdperson added to the 2020 noise. 

So here we are on the verge of 2020 and what have we all learned? If ‘a week is a long time in politics’ as Harold Wilson famously said, then what does five years give us? Back in 2015 no one saw the Brexit fiasco looming and Trump was as improbable a future US president as Elvis.

All businesses have an imperative to share their vision of the future with their people. But research shows that 74% of change management strategies fail.

So we’ve identified the top 10 success factors when communicating a vision or strategy campaign. 

But before we do that, let’s re-examine the importance of brand purpose.

Every organisation should have a crystal clear and fixed purpose. Or what’s the point of it? 

We call it ‘Your Place in the World’ (if you haven’t nailed this, or it’s not understood throughout your organisation, then we need to talk). 

Take the BBC. They’re happy for us all to know their purpose ‘To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain’. Short, direct, easy to understand and fixed. Any new strategy roll-out would need to support this purpose and explain how this position will be achieved maintained or cemented.

So here are 10 ways to ensure your next strategy comms campaign succeeds:

1 Make it personal – a mix of audiences means a myriad of backgrounds, skills, personalities, motivations and levels of potential engagement. Talk the right language to the right people.

2 Cascade – share the load and plan a route for your content through key communities and priority audiences by working with engaged advocates who are in it for the long haul.

3 Build communities – internal audiences groups are often diverse, especially in a global organisation, understanding these communities by seeding pertinent conversations and encouraging dialogue between them creates empathy and a shared understanding.

4 This can be fun – work is serious, strategy is serious, but that doesn’t mean the approach has to be dry. Gamification, for example, can be the light touch needed to engage people, as well as gathering useful insights.

5 Choose the right channels – your business probably uses tried and tested channels, but explore the disruptive alongside the expected.

6 Don’t be scary – hitting the right tone of voice is essential and there are trigger words that can turn off and alienate: ‘transformation’ and ‘innovate’ are powerful words when used in the right context but can also intimidate.

7 Maintain dialogue – too many comms strategies fail because of a ‘launch and leave’ attitude. Seed and encourage user generated content to share stories and successes to help maintain momentum.

8 Accountability – strategies are generally formulated by senior leadership teams. Adopting an approach that includes key stakeholders beyond the SLT can help counter the inevitable cynicism and build credibility, especially if audiences can clearly see the architects of the strategy.

9 Make it clear and honest – business strategy is multi-faceted and nuanced, but a well executed, simple and clear tone of voice builds understanding. Some questions that need to be tackled include: What do I have to do? What will success look like? and What if this plan fails?

10 Flexibility as standard – it can be tempting to date stamp a comms plan, but what happens when the landscape changes? What happens at the end of the 5 year plan? Hard-wire flexibility into an ongoing campaign which supports the over-arching purpose. This requires careful nurturing, relevant intervention and reaction – but it pays dividends in the long run.

Thirdperson has worked with many organisations to help communicate their strategies. Find out how our experience and the tools we’ve developed help businesses connect with their communities, both internal and external, and drive successful communication.