It’s important to know your audience. Different employees have different wants and needs regarding how they’re communicated to. This may be due to personalities and preferences – some respond to long, dense paragraphs while others just want a short video. But the difference might also be due to the employee’s role in the company and where or how they work.

Companies will spend millions of dollars understanding the demographics, psychographics and segmentation of potential customers and clients. But because they have a listing of their employees in the active directory, they tend to stop at a one-size-fits-all approach to internal communication and hope that it’s working.

The audience matrix

As we’re developing communications strategies for clients, Tribe’s discovery process includes analysis of the company’s audience matrix. This is where we map out the roles, reporting structure, geography and physical reality of every employee. Communications teams generally understand who their main audiences are. Still, the reports tend to unearth very interesting nuances in the various audience segments.

It’s like playing in a band

I was recently working my band to learn to play new songs that I’d written. It was really interesting to watch how each person interpreted what I was asking for and what kind of information they needed to perform the song well.

For the guitarist, the bass player and the drummer, I just told them the song’s key and strummed a few chords. In no time, they played just what I wanted. Almost instantly, they were adding flourishes and parts that I might have never thought of. Similarly, the singer listened along for a minute and knew just the right places to add harmonies.

The horn players, on the other hand, needed a lot of very specific information. This isn’t because the others were necessarily better musicians. The role of the horn player is different from the rest of the group. They play together as an ensemble with each instrument contributing a different part of the chord and melody and only playing in specific parts of the song.

So the horn players require sheet music that maps out the tune from start to finish – kind of a project plan for a song. The music spells out exactly when they play – and when they don’t play. If the music I provide them isn’t correct, what they play will be wrong.

Different employees require different methods of communication

There are plenty of employees who are like seasoned guitar players. Just give them the vision and a little bit of information about an initiative, and they can run with it – marketing people, salespeople and strategists are often good examples of these people.

Some need details

But there are many others who need very detailed information. Again, it isn’t because they’re less intelligent or that they’re not good at their work. IT folks, web developers and engineers, like the horn section, provide very specific input. Their work requires wading through details. And they’re used to working in scrums and in other odd sounding ways to ensure that the detailed work that they’re doing aligns with the overall goal. Unlike the sales folks, these people tend to love details. They want to understand the why. If there’s math involved, they’re going to ask to see the work.

Some you have to reach any way you can

There also are all of those non-desk employees who are on the front lines – on the sales floor or doing rounds with patients or in a manufacturing environment. If we’re sticking to the band analogy, maybe they’re the sound guys, roadies and all the other folks that ensure that the performance reaches the audience.

These frontline folks have very little time to consume any information that their direct manager didn’t tell them in the morning huddle. With this audience segment, we try to intercept them any way we can to send them to information they need. We have to figure out their physical reality and communicate with them in the best possible way. They can be the most difficult audience to communicate with. But since they’re the front line, it’s absolutely critical that the work they do aligns with the plan.

The big point here is that different audiences require different approaches. That one-size-fits-all approach is likely working on a very small percentage of your audience.

Need help understanding your internal audience? Tribe can help.

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