Editor’s note: Lucy Davison is founder and managing director of Keen as Mustard, a London-based marketing agency. 

keyboard and mouseMany insights professionals struggle to get engagement and traction from internal audiences at the best of times. But with the added layer of COVID-19 to cut through, the challenge may seem insurmountable. How can a lone insight manager, armed with a laptop and a possibly unreliable internet connection, ensure they are helping to place the voice of their customers at the heart of their organization? How can they be sure their work continues to have resonance and influence? 

Have the principles of communication changed? No. The tips and principles we were writing about a couple of years ago are probably even more important. But there are some elements that need adjusting, to ensure your message hits home (literally).

1. Be more human.

It’s all too easy to lapse into corporate speak, jargon, the third person. But in times of crisis it is vital to acknowledge that you are also in the thick of it. There is no silver bullet; no one knows what the outcome will be. So, it is even more important to make real, personal connections. If authenticity was important before, it is even more so now. 

How to be more human? Write in the first person, share real anecdotes (just keep it short, see below), tie your data stories into reality. Use verbatim, images of real people and most of all, take advantage of video to share content. Given how online meeting platforms or even FaceTime have revolutionized our ability to connect at work, it’s really easy to press that record button and get a short, snappy video of yourself sharing your data or insight story to send out to your colleagues.

2. Keep it short.

Many researchers don’t know what short means in copy terms. But if it was important to trim our e-mails, reports or videos before lockdown, it’s even more important now. You are now not only fighting with other media and the constant distracting flow of COVID news, you are fighting with an audience that is even more stressed and finding it hard to focus. People (like me) might have gone into this crisis thinking, “Now is the time I’ll finally read War and Peace” or “At last I can learn Spanish,” but they are now finding it hard to focus on a single Tweet. So, give them a break. 

How to keep it short? Make your headlines rhetorical, punchy and engaging. Take out all superlatives and extraneous words from copy. Use active verbs, short sentences and concrete terms. 

3. Know your audience.

Of course, communication should always be focused on the audience. What you communicate is not what you say or write but what is heard and remembered. We always recommend clients segment their internal audiences if they can. So, you create appropriate messages and content for the C-suite and different ones for the shop floor.  

How to know your audience? If you have not got a formalized feedback process in place, then now is a good time to reach out personally, listen and engage. Always remember the “two ears, one mouth rule.” Communicate in proportion, and you will make a good start. I also find it very helpful to record meetings and get transcriptions – recordings are always more helpful than notes in focusing on exactly what your interviewee said. Then you can focus on active listening.

Less is more

Finally, as you sit in your home office bubble sweating over your 50-slide PPT report, it might be tempting to attach it to a short e-mail and send it off to your excitedly waiting audience. Phew! Job done. But remember, never e-mail the PPT report. Be kind to your audience. Don’t expect them to do the work. Now we have to connect on e-mail even more, write a short story, create a single image of your insight or just send one chart. When it comes to communicating insights, less is more.