Radiating your essential updates to your audience
Some leaders are ready to hit “send” on their revamped or net-new communication right away, while others take a more gradual approach — collecting feedback from key stakeholders before their audience sees the new style.
Below we explore a few stops on that spectrum.
The final steps before you hit send on your essential communication are shaped by four questions:
- Who are you going to send it to? Your whole audience, or a segment of it?
- What are you going to tell them about it, either before or when they receive it?
- When are you going to send it to ensure it has maximum impact?
- How are you going to collect feedback to pressure test what’s working?
1) Who are you going to send it to? Most organizations fall in one of three buckets:
- One step: You’re sending to the whole audience. This might be a communication you’ve been sending for a while, engagement is pretty good, and you’re just optimizing its output. People will be excited about its evolution, but won’t need to be convinced to consume it. Or maybe you’re a small team and new launches are part of your culture. People will open anything from you.
- Two steps: You’re starting with a focus group. This might be a net-new communication or a meaningful departure from the content or style you used to share. Identify a small group of stakeholders or influencers who represent your audience. Send the first few editions to them, ask for their feedback, improve the communication over time, and when it feels sharp, start sending it to your entire audience.
- Multi-step: You’re gradually expanding. Much like two-step, this is a phased approach. Maybe your culture is more sensitive to change. Maybe what you’re communicating has political or regulatory considerations. This approach can be three-step or more, but it adds more readers to the audience in phases, and collects input from each until you’re comfortable sharing the new or revamped communication with your full audience list.
Pick which approach feels right to you, and your approach can vary depending on which essential communication you’re sending. Maybe an all-staff update gets pressure tested, but a small team newsletter goes out to everyone right away. No wrong answers as long as you’re getting it out there.
2) What are you going to tell them about it? This is where organizations get smart and strategic.
🟢 If you’re taking the “One step” approach, and you…
- …Are revamping an existing communication, use the last few editions of its “old” look and feel to let folks know something new is on its way. Share a bit the work you’ve done to evolve it, and how much you’re looking forward to everyone’s reactions to it. In your first edition with the “new” look and feel, use the intro space to announce it, share a bit about what folks can expect from it, and build energy and momentum about what you think it will empower them to do.
- …Are launching a new essential communication, find an appropriate all-hands, team meeting or other relevant forum where your key audience is already assembled. Have a leader champion the idea of what’s to come — why you’re launching this communication, what you hope it will unlock, and how folks can share feedback about it — before the first edition goes out. In your first edition, use the intro space to celebrate its launch, explain what types of information you’ll cover in it, and when or how often folks should expect to receive it. Context is key.
🟢🟢 If you’re taking the “Two step” approach…
- Identify a short list of stakeholders. They should represent the audience your communication is meant to serve and some of the stakeholders above them. Look for folks who are engaged and willing to share feedback. Make sure they represent different areas of your audience, whether that’s by seniority, department, or other qualities. You want enough folks that you get textured feedback, but not so many that it creates distraction / noise. Many organizations choose 5-20.
- Get their buy-in. Let them know what you’re working on. Invite them to be early advisors and influencers to it. Set expectations for how often you’ll need their input and how much time they should expect to spend on it. You can do this verbally or in writing.
- Start sending editions. You’ve already put together a strong plan for what this communication should be. Start executing. In each edition you send to your focus group, give them an obvious and easy way to share feedback — whether it’s with a survey you link in the introduction and footer, or with features that are built right into the tool you’re using to send it, like polls.
- Specify what feedback you want. In the first few editions, leave this open. Ask for general, unguided reactions. What do people think of this information and format? How useful is it? Then you can start drawing their attention to specific areas where you want input. Are these the right topics? What do they think of the tone? What time of day would they prefer to receive it? Etc.
- Evolve quickly and clearly. Evaluate the feedback you’re receiving. Consider what’s worth putting into action. As you start to evolve your approach, call attention to it. Thank the folks in your focus group for their input, and show them the real change it’s having to this communication that their peers will soon start seeing, too. You can do this right
- Set a deadline. Decide how long you want to run your focus groups. If you’re sending an edition every week, 3-12 weeks of practice runs and feedback is common for many organizations. Then set a goal for when you want your first full-audience send to be.
- Build energy and excitement. Find an appropriate all-hands, team, or other meeting where your key audience will be. Have a leader champion the idea of what’s to come — why you’re launching this communication, what you hope it will unlock, and how folks can share feedback about it — before the first edition goes out. In your first edition, use the intro space to celebrate its launch, explain what types of information you’ll cover in it, and when or how often folks should expect to receive it. Thank the folks who were part of your focus group.
🟢🟢🟢 If you’re taking the “Multi-step” approach, you’re going to run a similar process as folks taking the “Two step.” But as you progress through your pilot weeks, expand the set of stakeholders reading each edition and sharing feedback on it. There are many ways you can think about expanding your circle, but a common approach among organizations sending a weekly-or-more update is:
- Weeks 1-4: The owner of the communication, 2-3 executive decision-makers, 5-10 key audience members receive the communication. Feedback is focused on defining the communication’s goal, identifying what content and context is most essential, and reliably curating both.
- Weeks 5-7: Add 10-20 more people into the mix. They should be priority readers in your audience and represent different segments of it. Feedback is focused on timing, tone, depth of detail, mix of information, and other practical, tactical input.
- Weeks 8-10: Add another batch of readers, if your audience is large. Feedback is often on two ends of a spectrum — high-level, checking that the topics covered still feel useful and thorough, and quite minute, making sure the voice, tone, and personality resonates with those who read it,
- Weeks 11+: You could continue to expand and test, or you can rope in the rest of your audience and start sending to the entire list.
And remember: Everything above is ultra customizable. Focus group sizes, time spans between steps, and more can all vary. Small organizations might move faster. Massive teams might need more practice to feel like they’re getting it right. Start with what feels right for you, and if you have questions along the way, your Axios HQ account manager can guide you through the process.
What’s next: We’ll guide you through a simple way to collect data and re-evaluate your strategy around each communication you send. Staying smart and essential to your audience means always being aware of what they need and thoughtful about how you deliver it to them.