I am a big fan of authentic Neapolitan Margherita pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella and handpicked basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, assembled to represent the colours of the Italian flag and then cooked for 90 seconds in a 900-degree wood-burning oven. (In fact, I took the photo above the last time I made one!)
When you bite into it, you can taste every delicious ingredient. To remove something or to add something more would diminish the faultless balance of simplicity that has been a religion in Naples, Italy since the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita in 1889.
It’s the simplicity of it that makes it so perfect.
I’ve been a communications professional for over 30 years now and in that time I’ve designed, written, photographed, built, drawn, recorded, animated and crafted just about every kind of communication possible; the one consistent success factor has always been that simpler is better.
Today, I spend my day as a consultant helping HR teams communicate with their employees. The challenge I face in this role comes when people try to make things more complicated. Too often I hear “We need to add this paragraph from legal; You have to decide between the DC, the DB, the DCSP, the GRSP or the HDBPP Oh, and can you put pineapple on the pizza?” The list goes on.
But when it comes to effective employee communication, we can learn a thing or two if we follow the lessons learned from the Margherita pizza.
Great pizza doesn’t try to be a BBQ chicken sandwich.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a good barbeque chicken sandwich, but when you put barbeque chicken on a pizza you don’t get a great pizza or a great barbeque chicken sandwich. When it comes to communication, the same applies: keep it simple
When you over-complicate the message or the medium you lose focus on the goal and your message gets lost. Don’t diminish its effectiveness by including things that don’t belong. If you’re communicating the latest changes to your health plan, then stick to that subject. Deliver the most important information first, followed progressively by more detail until you’ve painted the whole picture. This format ensures the most crucial information is read first, assuming not all readers will continue reading. Finally, whatever you do, leave the barbeque sauce for the grill.
Use only simple, quality ingredients.
It’s what makes the Margherita pizza so good!
Albert Einstein once said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
It’s always a challenge to take complicated pension and benefits information and simplify it so that all employees can understand it. It can’t be so simple, however, that important information gets left out, leaving employees looking for answers. The ingredients you keep should be organized in ways that make it easier to understand. Group your content into logical categories so that important information is easier to find. Deliver it in a style that is appropriate for the audience and leave out unnecessary jargon or technical detail.
And if you’re going to use technology to deliver your communication, resist the temptation to add the latest bells and whistles in an attempt to provide a more amazing “digital experience.” If these extra features don’t contribute to the message you want to send, they can result in over-complication rather than simplification.
But that’s not to say you need to leave out the “cheese.” Being too simple is as bad as being overly complex. Technology’s design elements and functions can help meet your objectives and get your message across. Things like search features help employees find what they’re looking for, animations or transitions can lead users to connect with new content, and text expanders help keep screens clean and organized. All of these can help deliver your message effectively.
We also eat with our eyes.
In a world where we are bombarded with countless messages every day, it’s easy for your communication to get lost in the clutter. To stand out from the noise, put as much care into the presentation and design of the message as you put into the message itself. Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase “The medium is the message”. The tools that you use to communicate a message impact how the receiver perceives the message. If you want your message to stand out, make sure the presentation is bold, simple, clean, and will appeal to the audience it’s meant to attract.
People take in information in many different ways. The most effective communication campaign might be a beautiful brochure posted on the company intranet site, a video featuring statistics with charts and graphs, or face-to-face group sessions led by subject matter experts.
Make it an experience.
One of the great things about cooking pizza in my backyard wood-fired oven is the time spent with family and friends drinking wine and creating memories. Cardboard pizza delivery from the local mega-chain might still be pizza, but it lacks the emotional quality of a carefully crafted product. It fills your belly, but beyond that it has no meaning. It tries to appeal to as many types of pizza eaters as possible, and in doing so, it never fully connects with any of them.
The most effective communication should evoke some emotion in the audience. Understanding the culture of your organization is critical in determining what is meaningful to your employees. Choosing a tailored approach to the design, messaging and delivery of the communication allows us to help you make unique connections with your teams.
So the next time you face the daunting task of feeding visiting royalty, or just delivering an internal communication, remember to keep it simple. Don’t over complicate it, use only what is necessary, add the personal touch, and make it a meaningful experience.
[Photo: Shane Morgenstern]