Managing your audience (Part 2)

You asked all the necessary questions and you know all about your audience.  You have tailored your message to the company culture, its needs, wants, and expectations.

You have done everything to prepare for your online collaboration challenge, but you still aren’t getting the results you are looking for.  Why?

This week we continue to explore the simplest rules of communication and the mistakes that will take away from a project’s success.  Read the first part here.

Forgetting About the Simple Things

Communicating with a widespread, diverse audience is a complicated venture.  Bill Truettner, an Imaginatik innovation specialist, explains that it is extremely difficult to take everyone’s circumstances into consideration and to tailor a message to fit a large group of people: “It’s ironic.  It’s usually the most basic communication tools that we disregard.”  These include sending frequent reminders, giving thorough instructions, encouraging feedback, and thanking people for their time.

Demonstrate the Project’s Importance

Generate interest in a project by showing how much of a difference it can make in the day-to-day operations of a business.  What can be gained from it?  What kind of knowledge will it generate?  How can the initial results grow?  Give examples from other similar projects to prove that it is a worthwhile venture.

Give Clear Instructions

When working with a large, diverse audience, it is extremely important to give clear, detailed instructions that everyone can understand and follow easily.  If the program is too complicated and the instructions are not easy to follow, people will not waste their time trying to figure it out, Truettner explains.  Make the program accessible to everyone.  Make the process as straightforward as possible.

Explain What’s Next

People want to know where their ideas go, who reviews them, and whether they will get credit for them.  Uncertainty leads to hesitation, which leads to a lower rate of participation and ultimately to a less successful collaboration Challenge.  Prevent this from happening before an innovation challenge begins.  Explain, in detail, the chain of events that will occur after someone hits the “Submit” button.

You Can’t Talk Too Much

You can never communicate too much.  Truettner explains that it is important to “prime the pump” while setting up an online collaboration Challenge—send out some form of communication a few weeks before to get people interested.  A few days before, send out more detailed information about the process, including goals, objectives, instructions, and what to expect.  On the day of the launch, send out detailed and easy-to-follow instructions about the Challenge.  Welcome feedback, questions, and concerns.  A few days later, send out examples of ideas that have been submitted to create a buzz around the project.  Continue sending out reminders until the Challenge closes.

Truettner also stresses the importance of sending multiple messages through at least three channels of communication, including email, website, and telephone.  He recommends also using at least one channel that grabs their attention, like physical mail.  Knowing what your company culture responds to will help you craft the most effective message.

Show Your Appreciation

Companies with successful online collaboration Challenges are appreciative of their employees’ contributions to them.  They show genuine gratitude for the extra time, energy, thought, and hard work that people use to complete these Challenges.  People will not continue to take part in things if they don’t receive recognition for their actions.  Acknowledging all the extra effort that people have contributed will let them know that they are appreciated and will encourage them that it is a worthwhile use of a time and resources in the future.

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