4 June 2009 • 1:37 pm

Planning Change Communication – Part II

In the previous post on the topic of planning communications for an organization’s change program, I outlined a sequence of five messages that are a key dimension of the planning framework. The five messages provide a basis for determining whatto say about change, independent of the determination of with whom the messages are to be shared. The audience dimension addresses this, and is the next part of the planning framework. 

Audience segmentation is the process of first defining the universe of stakeholders, and then dividing that universe into groups according to the intended approach to the communication of the messages. 

Note that we start with stakeholders. Stakeholders are simply those groups of people who (may) have a reason to care about the organization’s strategy. A for-profit organization may begin to describe its stakeholders as employees and customers, but a more careful view might include suppliers, owners (shareholders), and members of the communities in which the firm operates. Stakeholder analysis for a government organization is likely to be more complex. Stakeholders for a state agency providing a service (e.g. drivers licenses) may count drivers, employees, partner agencies (e.g. police departments), private enterprises (e.g. insurance companies), politicians, and legislators among its stakeholder groups. 

Stakeholder analysis is not just important for planning communication, it is an important part of the strategic planning process. Don’t assume that your organization’s leaders have a shared understanding of the structure and membership in the stakeholder community; some of the most valuable leadership team efforts in the strategic planning process is coming to agreement about stakeholders.  It is easy to see that stakeholder groups overlap. An employee may also be a stockholder, and a customer of the organization. The stakeholder approach to communication planning is a necessary prerequisite to ensuring consistency of messages across overlapping groups.  

Typically, the audience segmentation effort is focused on employees, whose understanding of the change agenda is absolutely vital to its success. Segmenting the employee population is generally done on the dimensions of job level and ‘organizational geography‘ – the physical and logical place for the group in the organization. 



The drawing above shows a typical segementation for a business unit inside a corporation, adapted from an actual client plan. The executive leadership team recognized quickly that customers and corporate executives would need to receive a high-level understanding of the change agenda, and that messages needed to be delivered differently to field and home office employees. It is easy to see that some groups are combined; while mid-level and supervisory management in the home office are segregated, they are treated as a single audience in the field. This is in line with the general guideline to identify the smallest number of unique audiences necessary to effectively communicate with each. Starting with a more granular view benefits the analysis, but audiences may be combined as the planning effort proceeds. 

Our planning framework now consists of two dimensions; messages and audiences. The planning process continues with the design of a message plan for each audience, which of course will be covered in a subsequent post.

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