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Culture + Engagement: Brian Adam and James Swanson

8 Communications Strategies to Inform and Engage Your Team

The consequences of poor communication can be dire. Don’t let it happen to you.




Repeat each key message seven times to make sure it connects with your team. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

“I wish my company would stop sharing so much useful information with me all the time. It just feels like I’m continually well informed about what’s happening.” – unknown

THIS QUOTE IS ATTRIBUTED to “unknown” because I don’t believe anyone has ever said anything remotely like that. Virtually any employee appreciates real-time updates on what’s going on, what’s working, and what’s not. Effective communication fosters a sense of belonging and clarity of purpose and goals, and it provides a framework for resolving conflicts and misunderstandings. Plus, the consequences of poor communication can be dire. When teamwork suffers and morale dips, you could lose your entire business, or at least some of your key employees.

Let’s face it: The wide-format printing industry is intense. It’s often a heads-down, seven-day-a-week firefight with tight lead times, botched artwork, material flaws and other challenges of getting product out the door. Ensuring effective internal communication is the last thing anyone is thinking about when deadlines loom. In this fast-paced environment, the following strategies can help all of us do a better job of communicating effectively:

The Rule of Seven

Clients need to see a branding message seven times before they commit to a purchasing decision. This is an old marketing lesson I learned (a long time ago) as a marketing student at the University of Wisconsin, and I apply the same principle to any message I hope to hit home and be remembered. Saying something seven times may seem like a lot, but you don’t need to repeat yourself because there are so many potential channels of communication. To ensure your message is understood and remembered, use everything at your disposal – email, phone, newsletter, blog, wiki, social media, and what I’d argue is most effective (if a bit old school): talking face-to-face.

Monday Morning Updates


My good friend Riley Didion, president of Didion Milling near Madison, Wisconsin, gave me a hugely impactful tip: sending Monday morning emails to the entire company. Topics vary widely, ranging from project showcases and training tips to messages addressing rumors, celebrating wins, sharing challenges, and providing economic updates. I love the cadence and rhythm created by a regular email that sets the tone for the week ahead.

Team Huddles

I recently visited my good friend Matt Bulloch, President of TentCraft in Traverse City, Michigan, and I left impressed. This company runs a series of daily huddles in each department – quick touch-bases every morning with the entire team, complete with walk-up music and shout-outs. Everyone seems to have a ton of fun during these five-minute huddles, and everyone leaves fully apprised of the issues of the day. Admittedly this is not something I personally do, but it was powerful to see, and I guarantee employee engagement levels at TentCraft are high.

Internal Newsletters

A monthly newsletter can seem a bit old-school. However, I love the rigor and discipline created by reflecting back on the past few weeks and sharing thoughts and updates with the team, particularly production employees who don’t live in their inboxes. Bonus tip: With a few clicks, you can translate a newsletter for employees more comfortable in another language.

Asking Directly


Instead of guessing what employees want to know more about, why not ask? This boosts engagement and ensures relevant information is being shared. My only word of caution is to be prepared to tackle challenging topics (say, plans for wage reviews, improving benefits, or company growth).

Open-Book Management

I’ve found that if you don’t share details about costs and profitability, employees will draw their own conclusions. As part of our onboarding process, we are explicit in showing employees how we make money, and we report profitability to our entire team every month.

Two-Way Communication

I don’t view sharing messages with our team as a one-way street. Rather, I make a conscious effort to listen to what our team has to say. Great ways to formally and informally open lines of communication with your team include suggestion programs, one-on-ones, surveys, and an old classic my father taught me: MBWA (Management by Wandering Around).




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