Although business isn’t necessarily personal, it pays to develop a custom-made plan to let people know a shift is coming.
Change is inevitable, especially when it comes to business. In the course of an individual’s professional evolution, it sometimes makes sense to embark upon a big change — like spinning off to launch an independent company or taking on an executive position at a new company.
When making a significant change, it’s vital to keep clients, contacts and colleagues well-informed in order to maintain key relationships and business.
Our firm works closely with corporate executives making major moves in position, and financial adviser practices switching firms or launching Registered Investment Advisor entities. Here are six key communication strategies to ensure a smooth transition:
1. Understand your former contract and limitations
Prior to making a move, take a close look at any employment agreements and restrictions to which you might be obligated. It’s wise to seek the advice of legal counsel, who can help you determine whether you are legally able to maintain working relationships with former clients and contacts after your departure.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Once you have decided to make a change, put together a detailed timeline of events and corresponding communications. Work back from the date you plan to announce the change, and include actions like officially tendering notice for your current employment relationship, emailing colleagues, communicating with clients and contacts, fielding incoming questions and deploying a website or social media postings. The timeline should account for time needed to develop and finalize communications collateral so you’re ready on “Day One” of the change.
3. Center the narrative on your audience
When people think about major changes, they usually just think of PR — or external outreach to the world. We often hear, “We have a communications plan, there’s a press release.” But it’s likely communication with your colleagues, business network, clients and others will be more of a personal outreach, and a more sensitive outreach to their personal experiences. Your audience (clients, contacts, etc.) must be at the center of your messaging. Think about their experience, what this change will mean for them and how the change will positively impact the way they work with you or consume your services. Center your messaging around what’s in it for them, instilling confidence in their future partnerships, or offering a value-add through something new.
4. Focus on the future (and less on the past)
Avoid dwelling upon the company or role you are leaving. Mentions of your former employment setup should be kept to a minimum — with the main focus kept on the new and improved experience to which you are transitioning. While you want to include a thank you note for their partnership, trust, etc., you don’t want to speak to specifics about your former position.
5. Be creative in your methods of outreach
Email and direct mail certainly have their place in a holistic communications plan, but thinking outside the box can help boost engagement. Consider complementing these traditional efforts with touch points like a quick, personal video you share via social media, a dinner party for key clients, live or on-demand webinars, FAQ documents that address common questions or concerns, etc.
6. Maintain a consistent message.
There are various ways you’ll communicate with your contacts — some will consume emails, videos, or online postings, some you speak with live in person or on the phone, and others will receive a voicemail. Being prepared for each of these touch points is vital to controlling the narrative and keeping the story consistent. Develop your communications ahead of time, including scripts for phone calls and voicemails, to make sure each touch point is optimized and appropriately conveys your message.
Putting strategic thought into the next phase of your professional offering will help you maintain key relationships, clients and contacts. Heeding these six pointers will help you effectively communicate while keeping your eye on the future.