Last week I had an onboarding meeting with the new employee communication director at a Fortune 500 company. (Davis & Company has worked with the company for a number of years, and the director wanted to pick my brain.)
“What is the first thing you recommend we change about how we communicate?” she asked.
“That’s easy,” I replied. “I would simplify everything your team writes: emails, leader messages, intranet articles, infographics—you name it.”
She laughed. “It’s funny you say that because just yesterday I was asked to review an email from the CEO. And I noticed that the style was very formal . . . almost academic. Plus, the email was signed with the CEO’s full name and title: Susan Sheridan, CEO and Chief Executive Officer.”
The director continued. “I thought, ‘Doesn’t everyone know who our CEO is? I’ve heard that everyone calls her Susan. Couldn’t she just sign her first name?’”
Well, yeah. And that’s when I asked the director to join my mission to abolish Corporate Speak—and instead adopt the Post-it Philosophy for creating internal communication.
I was reminded of the joys of Post-it Notes because one of their inventors—Spencer Silver—died last month. Silver came up with a formula for a re-stickable adhesive but it took a few years for 3M to figure out what to do with it. When engineer Art Fry discovered the adhesive was ideal for self-sticking notes that wouldn’t ruin paper, the product took off.
As Spencer recalled, “It was always a self-advertising product,” he added, because customers would put the notes on documents they sent to others, arousing the recipient’s curiosity. “They would look at it, peel it off and play with it, and then go out and buy a pad for themselves.”
Why we (heart) Post-it Notes
Okay, now consider what you love about Post-it Notes—They’re colorful. Concise. Convenient.—and think about how those attributes can improve internal communication.
Why can’t a CEO email be more like a Post-it Note? Instead of 600 words, how about 75? Instead of a long block of formal prose, how about five bullet points? Instead of an old-fashioned talking-head video, how about a 15-second Instagram post?
Isn’t a Post-it Note wonderfully simple? And shouldn’t employee communication be simple too?