Key takeaways in this post:

  • Executive communications should be engaging – not speaking at employees.
  • Showing empathy, compassion, integrity and authenticity are all important to connect with employees.
  • Check in with your staff frequently so you’re aware of any challenges they’re facing and opportunities you can improve in.
  • Including storytelling within your communications is an effective way to show your employees why you appreciate them.
  • Create a strategy to follow. This will help you to be prepared for any event that arises and how to be successful through every channel you communicate through.

A well-written executive communication is a powerful thing. The CEO and executive team play a vital role in a company’s vision and mission — people view them as embodiments of the brand. Their communications naturally command attention.
The trick is making the most of that attention by sharing messages that are memorable and useful. Inspiring and reassuring. In short, caring. Especially when healthcare CEOs must communicate to staff members in the era of novel viruses.

Internal executive communications that engage are more important than ever. Studies show that most employees believe these messages are good for morale and productivity and make them feel valued.
Effective executive communications are:

But that ROI is only possible if you’re deliberate about your strategy and — perhaps most importantly — dedicated to monitoring your email campaign metrics.

  1. Concise. Short-and-sweet messages have the best chance of getting through the noise.
  2. Written in plain language. Avoid jargon to boost understanding and engagement among your workforce.
  3. Useful. Include informative advice and updates. And stick to the point.
  4. Timely. In a chaotic world, messages need to be sent “while the iron is hot.”
  5. Customized for each audience. Ensure the message is relevant to specific teams, such as employees, managers or new hires.

Beyond these best practices, you’ll need real insight into your workers, so your messages strike a chord rather than skim the surface like last year’s inspirational poster. Here are some ways you can do just that.

To connect with employees, they must believe you understand what’s happening in their work environment and how it’s affecting them.

For example, stress is a worthy topic for any executive communication in healthcare. Before you start crafting a message, you’ll need to know how your staff deals (or doesn’t deal) with stress.

You can gauge staff well-being and find sources of burnout by using tools like the American Medical Association’s Mini Z Burnout Survey or the MBI: Human Services Survey for Medical Personnel. If you spot trends, you can dig deeper to discover the source of the problem and address it. Your executive team might even consider asking a simple question: How can I help?

Once you have insights from your survey results, you can acknowledge the problem, encourage constructive solutions, and help recreate a positive work culture. If you find specific obstacles to stress relief, address them. To help reduce stress, you can share good news from your organization or talk about calming therapies that employees can easily do at a desk.

The best executive communications in healthcare are honest and genuine. Everyone communicating from a position of power should understand how they can lead with empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To accomplish that, executive communications will need to go a little deeper than, “I know how you feel.” For example:

  • Do this: We understand how stressful and exhausting the last two years have been for you. We know you have limited free time between clinic visits. But when you do, please take advantage of our employee assistance programs (EAPs) and mental health resources. These tools can help revive your spirits as we weather this storm together.
  • Not that: Remember to make use of our mental health and EAP resources as often as possible.

Show empathy

Make communication from senior leaders about the employees. You can do this by:

  • Connecting through things your workforce cares about, such as their role in curing illness.
  • Using caring and open language that makes them feel good about themselves and instills pride in how well they handle challenges.
  • Increasing the frequency of communication when times are turbulent, even if you don’t yet have all the answers

Visual language can also create pleasant pictures that stick in people’s memories. For instance, when writing about how rewarding healthcare can be, instead of describing how it feels, use physical descriptions. Describe the smile of a young patient or the look of awe on a mother’s face when her newborn is placed in her arms. Consider using a bit of humor or lightheartedness to convey optimism.

Demonstrate integrity

Use language aligned with your organization’s values — values like compassion, respect for persons, the practice of compassionate, ethical and relationship-centered care. On that same note, be alert to any HR policies or working conditions that might make your executive communications sound tone-deaf and damage their credibility.

For example, if the executive team wants to send a message of appreciation for their staff’s dedication in trying times, but the next day cutbacks are made on training or wages — that positive recognition would backfire. When bad news needs to be delivered, provide talking points to explain the reasons for the changes. Being upfront and consistent about why a decision was necessary can help employees accept and adapt more easily. And it inspires trust

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to get your point across. Yes, you’ve heard this many times, but it holds true. Harvard Business Review has devoted plenty of content to its potency.

Does one of your leaders have a personal story about a loved one saved from a serious illness? Is there a nurse on staff who conquered burnout to rediscover meaning in their work?

Telling stories is a great way to let your essential healthcare workers know why you appreciate them. Don’t just call them heroes while failing to acknowledge their humanity.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began for example, people were desperate for answers and updates. Communication teams decided to over-communicate. But it’s easy to cross into information overload only to have your message lost.

In some cases, less might be more. You may not need to be everywhere all the time. Just be easy to find. Find out how your teams want to receive messages so they will be most alert and receptive to them. Send out a simple survey or attend a team meeting in person and ask each of your audiences what will work best for them.

Executive communication that people will care about still takes strategy and planning. Having a strategy outlined for each communication effort — such as channels you’ll use, key messages, timing and necessary stakeholder approvals — can help you act quickly and effectively.
You may also want to review the metrics you’re using to measure the effectiveness of your leadership messages. For instance, if you’ve sent an email about stress reduction, review how your recipients engaged with the email. Count the clicks on any links you’ve provided, downloads for videos, or registrations for events.
In addition, executives who speak on camera, in podcasts or in front of crowds may need coaching to come across authentically with a compelling message. That isn’t something that comes naturally to many people. It takes practice.

Meaningful messages from executives help your team feel connected and understood. They inspire trust and confidence and encourage a corporate culture that attracts great people and allows them to thrive. In turn, this sense of connection can lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement. During times of calm or crisis, effective leadership begins with meaningful communication.

WG Content’s team of healthcare writers, editors and strategists can craft meaningful internal communications that connect with employees. Reach out any time to learn how we can help.

Absolutely! The executive team should also have an effective plan to communicate with shareholders and the communities they serve.

As COVID-19 showed us, we can’t anticipate every major event that arises – especially a pandemic. Instead, a strategy can be built around the tone, empathy and open communication at its’ core.

Of course, executives have a lot on their plates each day. An effective way for executives to manage their communications is to use a ghostwriter or use outside resources like WG Content.

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