Does Your L&D Department Have a Communications Messaging Map?

Help employees to make time for learning. Increase manager involvement so that their direct reports feel the liberty to engage in learning activities.

These are the top challenges for talent development professionals according to the 2018 LinkedIn Learning Workplace Learning Report. The Report is based on a survey involving talent development professionals (1,200), employees (2,000), executives (200) and people managers (400).

Making headway on these two challenges is certainly going to require efforts on multiple fronts. This includes communications. I have seen this in my work with clients as well as by interviewing L&D leaders from organizations such as IBM, Home Depot and Swisscom on my podcast.

One of the foundational elements of a successful communications strategy is key messaging. I recommend that this is very concise – ideal would be to present this on a one-page document.

At the top of the document should be one phrase (5-7 words) that communicates the unique value proposition of your L&D department for the organization. Underneath this would be the 3-5 key messages. These messages should also be communicated in one phrase. Then underneath these 3-5 key messages would be the proof points that show examples. (See image to left).

All of the messaging map work that I have done with clients is not available for the public. But to provide a concrete example, you can take a look at this message map done by a university.

The Benefits of Creating a Messaging Map

Articulating a message map for your L&D department provides:

  • Internal clarity for the L&D team. If a stakeholder asks about the value of the L&D team for the organization, do various individuals give different answers? The messaging map process helps to align the team on the same communications messages that can be communicated to stakeholders across different channels.
  • External clarity for stakeholders. Depending on the size of your organization, there is a good chance that awareness about the L&D department is limited. There might be confusion about what the function does. The messaging map is one step towards addressing this. It forces the L&D team to answer the “so what”? How do specific employee audience groups benefit? How does their work life improve as a result? This particularly relates to the challenging of helping employees know that taking part in learning isn’t a time suck. Rather it is a modest investment that will save them time in the long run. It also enables managers to better understand how their direct reports can achieve team goals through learning.
  • The basis for a dissemination strategy. Of course the second bullet point above will not come to fruition if there isn’t a robust dissemination plan in place to communicate the messages to external stakeholders. So after aligning on what are the benefits for external audiences, the next step is to use the map as a means for creating a dissemination plan. For example, let’s say that a key message is that the L&D team helps new hires put in place development plans so that they can grow in their roles. The follow-up might involve creating content assets that demonstrate how this happens. Maybe it is a Q and A interview with an employee who previously benefited from the L&D new hire development resources. Or perhaps it is video interviews with leaders who can attest to how their new hires have successfully used the L&D resources. The dissemination plan articulates how this content will be disseminated to the relevant audiences.
  • The brand voice. The content that is disseminated will have a limited impact if the voice is off. In principle, materials need to incorporate practical examples nd be presented in an engaging way that corresponds to the corporate culture and voice. The audiences need to see themselves in the stories that are presented. Creating a messaging map is a good opportunity to define the L&D brand voice.

Going through the process of creating a messaging map to reap such benefits is an arduous process. It requires deep personal reflection, soliciting feedback from stakeholders and aligning together as a team. All three of these things are much easier to write in a sentence than actually doing in a robust manner. It will be worth the efforts. You and your team will be on a path to helping employees understand the value that your department brings to the organization.

Kevin Anselmo is the founder of Experiential Communications. His consultancy supports L&D departments in achieving communications goals.