I recently attended a cousin’s wedding in Orrville, Ohio. For those of you unfamiliar with Orrville, it’s about an hour south of Cleveland.
Moseying down the road in our rented Nissan Versa, I could tell I was a long way from my Jersey roots. Miles and miles of cornfields stretched from farm stand here to old post office there. My boyfriend, the native Michigander, felt right at home on these country roads and relished my girl-out-of-place routine.
We pulled up to an old country barn, done up in flowers and a canopy of lights. Hovering over the entrance was a horseshoe connecting the wiry initials of the bride and groom.
Everything about this wedding was personal, fun and engaging.
When you arrived, you were handed a paddle. On the front was an infographic explaining the events to come and an illustration of who was in the wedding party.
Along the bottom was a graphic timeline: wedding ceremony at 4:30, cocktail hour at 5, first dance at 6, and so forth.
The other side of the paddle provided details:
Here’s how the ceremony is going to go:
You will hear songs chosen by the bride and groom and sung by our friends while you wait.
Next, you might recognize the arrangements chosen from a few of our favorite movies that will introduce our family and friends. First will come our lovely grandmothers...next, will come our wonderful mothers. Shortly after the moms are seated, in comes our fabulous wedding party. After the flower girl makes it down the aisle (hopefully), please stand and watch the elegantly stunning, incredibly beautiful bride walk down the aisle.
Then the ceremony will officially begin. Don’t worry, we’ll make it quick.
As an internal communication professional, I’m always keeping an eye out for best practices in the field. Here are three things that can be applied from my cousin’s wedding:
1. Keep it conversational. Part of what captured my attention about the wedding paddle was that the writing style was very cheeky. It felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend or a colleague.
How can you apply this casual writing style to employee communication?
Instead of producing an employee handbook chock-full of HR jargon and legalese, turn it into something relatable—something employees can read and immediately connect to. For example, under Paid Time Off in our company handbook, you can find a tip about planning your days off in advance:
“December is often very busy at Davis & Company. This is also the time people typically take extra days off to ‘use up’ paid time off. Plan ahead so we don’t lose you right when we need you most!”
2. Use visuals. Icons, photographs and illustrations are all effective ways of bringing a story to life and getting your messages across quickly.
For example, we recently helped a pharmaceutical company introduce a new performance management process. We developed a road map—much like the infographic of events in the wedding program—that demonstrated the new process and timing.
We used icons to help managers, supervisors and employees understand which dates were specific to them and how they fit into the overall plan.
3. Make it useful. Not only was the wedding program friendly and visual, but it was also pertinent. It gave me all the information I needed to know.
First, we will hear songs sung by friends while we wait. Fantastic!
Then, we will hear music from the couple’s favorite movies as folks are escorted down the aisle. Got it!
Once the flower girl has made it to the end, we are expected to stand for the bride. Check!
Lastly, the ceremony will begin...and it will be quick. Wonderful!
Just like I don’t care about what’s happening behind the scenes (The caterer forgot the vegetarian meals; not enough people showed at Table 5.), employees don’t want to know things that don’t affect them personally.
When communicating with employees, put yourself in their shoes. Provide relevant information that will speak to employees’ needs and cut the rest.
For example, imagine you have a new HR program that is complicated and confusing. You presented the program to senior leaders and now it is time to communicate to employees. The level of detail you shared with senior leaders is going to be very different from what employees need to know. Employees are only interested in how the new program affects them in their role and what action(s) they need to take.
So whether you’re communicating to employees or guests at a wedding, the same rules apply: keep it conversational, use visuals and make it useful.