I rarely watch TV, so it was somewhat of a surprise to find myself binge-watching Bridgerton, the Netflix megahit from Shonda Rhimes. Frankly, it made a Covid New Year 2021 bearable. What’s there not to love when you have dazzling costumes, an entertaining storyline, and incredible eye-candy in the form of a smoldering, swaggerific Duke?
Speaking of the Duke of Hastings, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that Regé-Jean Page will not appear in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2. Don’t despair though, there will still be plenty of the drama that made this series a hit. Here is Everything You Need To Know About ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2.
But setting aside the thirst-trap, Bridgerton was a veritable masterclass in Communication, Inclusion and Change. Although each episode made me reflect on these three areas of my expertise, I’m itching to share my observations related to internal communications, particularly what we can learn from Lady Whistledown, the town’s anonymous gossip columnist. Don’t worry about spoilers below…there are hardly any. Really, though, who hasn’t watched Bridgerton yet?
As a masterful content creator, Lady Whistledown reminds us that, ‘she who holds the pen has the power’. Through tapping into high society’s insatiable desire to be in the know, she gains tremendous influence and a faithful readership. She seems quite unperturbed that her efforts also earn her the unwelcome envy of the Queen and a warrant for her arrest. Although it is generally unwise for communicators to draw ire from their most senior stakeholders, it does speak to the need to be bold with your ideas, content, and your approach. Being disruptive occasionally has its merits.
Content is King
Lady Whistledown provides breaking news, connects the dots, and asks provocative questions. The content is entertaining, and she weaves in suspense to leave her readers wanting for more. Your publication must have great content in an engaging style – the stories, the news and features should fill a need for employees to ensure that they keep coming back for more.
Improve your craft – pick up a copy of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. It definitely lives up to its tagline, ‘your go-to guide to creating ridiculously good content’.
Write for your Reader
In creating her scandal sheet, Lady Whistledown doesn’t pander to the Queen or any of the powerful aristocrats, which is especially surprising when her identity is revealed.
There is a lesson in this: write for your reader – not the approver. Are you sharing what employees need to know versus what management wants to say? Your job isn’t about spinning stories or making leaders look good. Authenticity, transparency, and openness are all essential. Share information with the people who need it to do their jobs and in a way that they can understand it.
In Regency-era London, aristocratic society thrived on gossip, and Lady Whistledown cleverly fills that gap. Each week she tells her readers:
- What was happening in the Ton and When
- Who was involved
- Why these events were occurring
- How people were being perceived as a result
- Where they needed to be – obviously at the latest ball!
Do you have your 5Ws and H covered? What are the most important topics that you need to cover? As we saw last year when the pandemic hit, information needs shifted and there was much more focus on news related to Covid-19, workplace policies, benefits, and health and wellbeing. Ensure that you are keeping pace as needs evolve.
Feature your People
The gossip rag is all about the debutantes and the aspiring suitors and that’s what makes it sell. A winning ingredient for any internal publication is to highlight the people in your business – interesting feature stories or profile pieces. People love stories where they can see themselves. So, hero a team that delivered a breakthrough, share photos, or video clips of your people telling their own success stories. Featuring real people in your organization doing the right things in the right way can be a powerful way to influence change.
Choose your Language and Style
Lady Whistledown shows us a couple things – the value of writing in a way that mirrors how people speak, and the beauty of nurturing your own style and personality as a writer. Her words float off the page and into the reader’s ear as if it were a conversation.
Are you aligning to the brand voice of your company? What tone will you use? Formal or casual? Chatty or serious? Are you planning to use fun, feature stories or just the plain facts? Check whether your language is laden with leaders’ cliched phrases or ‘management speak’.
Pick your Channels
In 1813 London, the convenient tabloid format was popular. Lady Whistledown prints her gossip rag overnight and peddles it in the morning through newspaper boys making brisk sales.
Well, it’s 2021 and there are a plethora of channels even for non-desk employees. Digital delivery through intranets, internal social media and company apps are growing in popularity. Take the time to research which channels work best for your audience. This is about them – go where they are!
Week after week the entire Ton knows when to expect the next tabloid full of the juiciest tidbits. In fact, it is this level of reliability that enables the Queen to plot Lady Whistledown’s arrest – while she on her way to the printers.
Do you have a set day and time for publishing so that your audience can count on getting their news when they expect it? Is the format consistent so that they can navigate it easily? Also, even if you have different writers the tone should not vary wildly.
Measure and Evaluate
Roaring sales is one way that Lady Whistledown evaluates her success real time. But that’s not the only thing that matters. Thanks to her undercover status, our favourite scandalmonger readily discerns how her content is resonating. The Ton is all abuzz after each edition is released and it decidedly influences many an outcome in the feverish matchmaking season!
Likewise, internal communicators must evaluate whether their content is engaging readers and if it is influencing behavior.
What can you do? Run A/B tests for your publication. Analyze open rates, click rates, and drop off rates to see which content resonates most. Test reader knowledge by asking specific questions in an annual communication channel survey. Use shorter surveys at the end of a publication to find out what they valued the most. Analyze engagement, comments and follow-through actions. Use good metrics to help you make informed decisions about your publication.
Have a Purpose
Ultimately your publication exists to achieve an outcome. It shouldn’t simply be a nice to have or exist because you’ve always had it. It takes time and effort to produce so make it worth the investment.
Lady Whistledown not only satisfies her readers thirst for gossip, but she also uses the publication to advance her own interests and sometimes selfish motives – breaking up Colin’s relationship as a prime example.
Know what you are trying to achieve with each content piece and each edition of your publication. Set SMART objectives and use it as a valuable tool to help embed your strategy, inspire your people, and cause positive transformation that translates into business growth.
Sure, it can come in many different formats, styles and be delivered via various channels. But whatever you decide, focus on what you want to achieve and let that guide your approach.
Tell me, did you watch Bridgerton? What other lessons in communications would you add to this list? Please share your comments below.
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© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.