The Forgotten Fifth ‘P’

Corporate communications often concerns crafting messages about what Steve and Cindy Crescenzo call “The Four ‘Ps”: policy, programs, products and procedures. But nobody wants a story about a program or a policy, says Steve Crescenzo. They want a story about how those things affect them or their coworkers — people.

Steve and Cindy Crescenzo, Crescenzo Communications, emphasized the changing dynamic of corporate communication amid a landscape of growing attention grabbers as well as the current pandemic climate during the “Creating Killer Content” webinar for IABC members Wednesday, October 7. During the hour-long session, they illustrated a number of tips and best practices for communicators to create more creative, relevant content.

In today’s environment, messages are competing heavily for a person’s time. There is an overabundance of content coming through dozens of channels. People can choose watching concerts or looking at corporate communications, Steve humored pointing to the opportunity to improve messaging. From communication audits, virtual focus groups, executive interviews and virtual vehicle analysis, Steve and Cindy highlighted insights into how corporate communication can be reshaped to be both engaging and informative.

Have more fun and be more authentic — “Use your weekend words,” they suggest. In focus groups, the Crescenzos say, corporate jargon comes across as disingenuous. The new normal involves Zoom, kids and pets wandering through online meetings, casual clothes and casual conversations, they said.

They offered an example of a CEO who went from sending out a weekly blog that nobody read to sending out a video of himself sitting casually in his backyard with a mask on as he gave his update to his employees. Another executive created a Tik Tok video dancing with his daughter that he put on Microsoft Teams. These are ways in which leaders can connect with employees.

Be conversational. Be human.

Get to the point — Employees want concise, timely information. Eliminate the jargon and tell them what they need to know. One tip for getting to your “point” is to write a first, fast sentence.

  • What is your story about?
  • Why do they need to know or care?
  • What do they need to do?

Another tip: Not everything has to be words. An infographic sometimes relays information more effectively than a story.

“It comes down to respecting your audience,” Steve says. “You respect their intelligence and you respect their time.”

Show impact — Employee communications is critical right now because we’re not at an office, we’re not in the cafeterias, Steve said. Camaraderie and culture are getting lost. Employees are hungry for human contact and connections. Start with an example of a person or people who may be affected by a policy or product. Show that through your introduction. Then, draw that personal connection back to the corporate initiative through a storytelling lead.

“It’s more important now more than ever to help create a community … help people feel connected to each other as colleagues and to the organization as a whole,” Cindy said.

They suggest the following formula when crafting messages:

  1. Use an anecdote — introduce a person or group.
  2. Offer detail — provide a little more information to get deeper into the story.
  3. Provide a quote — don’t quote facts and figures, quote emotion, humor or opinion
  4. The nut graph — provides the bigger picture and is essentially your “news lead.”

Be strategic

Finally, Cindy says, we need to be strategic in how we think of our audiences, our channels and our overall communication. Sending a message is not the same as “communicating” a message.

“We have to start linking behavior and how we influence it with our communications,” Cindy said. “This involves strategy, asking the right questions, research, and measurement to make sure we are doing what we thought we would do.”

First consider what you’re trying to achieve and create a purpose statement that lays the foundation for your organization’s communications. Then, establish editorial guidelines to help you align your messages. Communicators need to think like marketers, Cindy said. Craft content specific to your audience segments (think: home-based vs in-office employees—how might their information needs differ per topic? Is the topic relevant to both groups, or does just one group need the message?)

Finally, establish ways to measure your communication initiatives to make sure you’re accomplishing your goals. Don’t rely on general metrics, Cindy advises. Match the metrics to the behavior. Who cares if 50 employees opened an email if they don’t know what they’re supposed to do when asked about the objective, she said. The metric alone doesn’t matter.

When you link the strategic goals of your organization to your communication goals, your audience segments, the channels that are best to reach them, and establish proper measurements, your communication efforts will drastically improve.

More information:

Play the recording. You can also download the intro/closing slides and presenter slides Plus, as a bonus, here are written answers to a few questions shared in the chat that Steve and Cindy didn’t have time to answer during the webinar. In addition, Cindy and Steve have shared this link to register for their ebook, From Corporate to Creative.


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