watch your attitude

What's hot for fall? Roll-based communications strategies are back for another season... and it's not pretty.  Everywhere you look on the streets of DC, federal program managers are sporting messages directed explicitly to a particular audience (field directors, claims processors, regional coordinators, etc.) Sadly, this trend fails to address staffs’ unique challenges and concerns. What can you do? Consider freshening up your communications strategies by accessorizing with an attitude-based approach.

The key question is: how can the your program target its communications to more effectively pinpoint individual concerns?

One important objective of communications over the last several years has been on achieving consistency and speaking with “one voice.”  The positive impact of consistency is that the program is perceived to be organized around common goals. One of the downsides is that common messages typically appeal to one perspective and miss the opportunity to reach people with different concerns or complaints. As federal programs mature, resistance takes on many forms and perspectives.

It is hard to define one common complaint. Employees can have dozens of different viewpoints that are driven by their current work environment, degree of comfort with technology, available resources, senior support as well as other factors. For this reason, a one-size-fits-all engagement approach will not be effective in addressing the range of concerns.

To more precisely target outreach efforts, federal program teams should segment the stakeholder community by creating “attitude categories”. The matrix below shows two dimensions: 1) perceived program value --high or low and 2) implementation pace-- early adopter, passive supporter and resistant. (These can and should be changed to meet your precise needs.) 

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Ok.  So...  what to do next?

The combination of these dimensions reflect six distinct attitudes that require tailored outreach efforts. How might you use these categories to inform more precise outreach?

Attitude-based Outreach Approach

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  1. Refine the categories to mirror (to the degree possible) the general categories of concerns and complaints raised.

  2. Estimate the percentage of staff within the broad community that fall into each group. Rely on stakeholder representatives to help inform this effort.

  3. Develop messages and outreach opportunities that match the needs of each attitude category.

  4. Roll out the approach, recognizing there will be multiple messages released in parallel.

In sum, augmenting existing communications with more attitude-based outreach approach will more effectively address stakeholder concerns and promote buy-in. The current role-based strategy is directed at particular audiences and does not account for the varying opinions and perspectives. This decreases impact because these broad messages fail to address specific concerns and questions. At this point in the program’s maturity, federal programs should expand the approach to include attitude-based messages that cross multiple roles. The ability to more precisely address unique concerns will improve engagement and sense of understanding about the program’s purpose and the future.