Try This Trick From Amazon Next Time You Draft a Communication

June 11, 2019

Whether you’re inviting employees to register for a wellness webinar or writing content that helps your team adopt a new system, the quality of your communications will make or break the success of your initiative.

When you’re tasked with communicating to employees, you probably start with writing down what you want them to know. Seems straight-forward, right? Nope. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your audience probably doesn’t care about what you want them to know. They have 152 things to finish at work before they go home to do another 252 things. You need to think like your audience.

For over a decade I’ve used change management and behavior change models, marketing psychology, and neuroscience to build communication strategies that all but guarantee successful initiatives. But I get it, you may not have the time or budget to bring in a communications expert, so you (or the member of your team with extra time or the best vocabulary) type out what employees need to know. When I see these pieces – the one thing I consistently wish I could have helped you with – is a better focus on the audience.

When I read about the Amazon approach of working backward, I immediately thought about it as a tool for helping you write better copy.

It’s commonly known in the world of high stakes project management that Amazon has an approach they call working backward. The idea is that new initiatives are vetted by thinking backward from the customer versus creating a product and selling it to the customer. The product manager typically starts by writing an internal press release announcing the finished product.

The press release focuses on the customer’s problem, how current products fail, and why your new product is the ultimate solution.

If the press release doesn’t generate excitement or the benefits of the new product don’t sound beneficial, the product manager will continue working on the press release until it is convincing.

The same is true when you want to communicate with employees.

Below is an example of an internal press release outline. Completing this outline will help you think through what your audience wants to hear (rather than what you want to say). And when you’ve finished – you’ve got a list of strong key messages that are more likely to engage.

Think of your initiative as the product. Think your audience as the customer.

  1. Heading – Name the product. Your customer should understand what it is by reading its name.
  2. Sub-Heading – In one sentence, describe your customer and how they will benefit from your product.
  3. Summary – In one paragraph, summarize your product and its benefits. If this is the only paragraph your customer reads, they should be compelled to use your product.
  4. Problem – Describe the problem your product solves.
  5. Solution – Describe how your product is an easy solution to the problem.
  6. Quote from You – Give it a soundbite.
  7. How to Get Started – Describe the simplicity of getting started.
  8. Customer Quote – Write a customer’s quote that describes how they benefited from your product.
  9. Closing and Call to Action – Tell your customer where to go and what to do next.

Thanks for reading! If you want to see more content about communicating with your workforce, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my organization at Workforce Communication.