We’ve been working with a smart team of communicators to improve their internal communication program. And in our most recent session, the topic of managers came up.
“We know how important it is for managers to provide context to their employees—to explain what an issue means and clarify how their people need to take action,” said one team member. “But what’s the best way to prepare managers? Should we send them talking points?”
The short answer is: No, please don’t.
But I need a longer answer to explain why. For managers to feel prepared to share information, they need to develop something called “content mastery.” Managers need to learn enough about the issue to feel comfortable explaining it and answering questions about it.
To create that learning, invest time to make sure managers understand content. That means getting managers together (in person or virtually) to hear an expert present about the issue, then allowing lots of time for managers to get their questions answered.
After the session, follow up by providing background information, which can include talking points but, more importantly, contain FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that provide the questions employees are likely to ask, along with the answers managers need.
Why FAQs? Because managers spend much more of their communication time responding to employees’ questions and concerns than they do presenting.
In short, talking points are not a bad thing. But they’re only one element of a successful strategy for helping managers communicate.