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Know your audience

Whatever it is you want to communicate within your department, or to the wider University community, you’ll need to start by thinking about your audience. There are several questions you should ask before you get started:

What do they need to know and want to hear?

They’ll be key messages you need staff to know to do their job efficiently and effectively. These can vary from very practical messages about creating a safe working environment to much more strategic messages about the University’s vision and strategy. Then they’ll be information that colleagues want to know and actively seek out - which may be the information you want them to receive or may not! It’s important to have a balance between the two, so staff don’t feel they are frequently having messages pushed out to them. Asking the ‘what’s in it for me’ question and making your communications active with a ‘call to action’ can help shape your communications messages.

What’s their preferred way of receiving information?

Think about where your colleagues are based. Are they generally office-based, sat in front of a computer or are they frequently out of the office? This will influence how you provide information to them. Office based colleagues are more likely to pick up an email quickly, but for non-office based staff, team briefings and printed communications may be more effective.

Is there anything that will stop them listening?

Generally, the more information people receive, the more likely they are to switch off, so it’s worth thinking about how much information you’re sharing with staff and how frequently. For example, once embedded, a weekly (or fortnightly, or monthly) email can be useful as people will get used to receiving it regularly. However if lots of people are sending out department-wide emails, the regular one may get lost in the ‘noise’, so it’s probably best to co-ordinate as far as possible.

And how will you know they got the message?

Providing opportunities for colleagues to feedback will help you understand if they’ve taken on board your communications. This can be done informally through chatting with colleagues and collecting anecdotal information or more formally through online feedback forms or face to face at team briefings and meetings. Focus groups, where staff are not in the room with a line manager, can also be effective.