Managing Complex Communications

If you’re reading this we haven’t all been swallowed into a black hole. That’s a good thing, and the people at CERN have been working hard to re-assure everyone that when they switch on the Large Hadron Collider there will be lots of interesting data generated, which may change our view of the universe and challenge our assumptions, but no ‘end of the world’ scenario.

Many organisations struggle with small scale communications of change and new ways of working, finding large scale changes and world wide communications close to impossible. Scientists are not often held up as the best communicators, but on this occasion they’ve certainly tried hard and achieved a good deal of success. There’s plenty that HR teams can learn about clear communication of complex messages.

What can we learn from the CERN experience?

  • Begin your communication plan early
  • Match your communication to your audiences – choose the content carefully
  • Build your communication in manageable chunks, from awareness to understanding
  • Work to engage your audience(s), make your message interesting and relevant
  • Expect people to have fears, be prepared to answer questions honestly
  • Utilise trusted people to help get your message across, a team of Pathfinders or Champions
  • Don’t be afraid of not having all the answers – with any change programme it’s OK to have a few ‘don’t knows’ as long as the overall message is clear

You may or may not want to supplement your message with a rap video, it worked for CERN, but it’s not likely to work for you.