Why change comms should be drawn

How do you communicate change in your organisation? Do you use illustrations? Should you? Could you?

I’ve got a guest post for you today examining this topic and providing food for thought when it comes to communicating visually.

Virpi Oinonen @voinonen from www.businessillustrator.com is incredibly talented and I’ve featured her many times on my blog over the years. I’m sure her illustrations around community management, responsive organisations and Yammer are familiar to you.

As a visual thinker, I love looking at her content. I find her resources helpful to articulate scenarios with my clients and encourage them to think about transformational communication.

I’m going to link to lots of articles at the end of this one as Virpi has highlighted various topics I know my readers are interested in. I’ve just dug through the archives and will share links to posts from years gone by so you can read more.

If you’ve ever thought about using drawings in change communication (or are just curious), you’re in for a treat. She’s holding a free two-hour workshop on 21 June in central London and I recommend signing up. It’s called Say it with drawings – discover the power of the drawn line.

Want to learn about change communication?
Sign up to my next All Things IC Change Communication Masterclass – it’s on 20 June 2018 in London.

Here’s Virpi…

Why change communication should be drawn

Many internal communications people see themselves as brand guardians. They are the ones who produce polished texts and slick presentations.

The ones who hire a video production company to produce “professional” looking corporate videos. The ones who gasp in horror when some unfortunate soul in sales has produced their own PowerPoint presentation and used random images from the internet.

And I get that.

But in change communication the quest for perfect brand alignment becomes a problem.

Why slick sucks
Let me explain. When things are changing you are also asking employees to change the way they think and behave. Right?

Well for that to happen you have to engage them – make them feel their contribution is needed (and I hope there is a way for them to contribute – but that’s a topic for another post).

Unfortunately slick visuals (stock photos – I’m looking at you) and polished written materials communicate the opposite: they signal that everything has been decided.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: Why you need to ban stock pics of fake employees..

Maybe you even hired some communication company to produce a cool video with snazzy graphics and high production values.

Do you know how employees might interpret that?

Like this: “Ooh, I bet that cost a lot. They wouldn’t have produced that video if we could still influence things”.

In other words it accidentally signals that you are running a tick box exercise: I communicated message X to the employees – tick! It makes the audience switch off, it lulls them into a passive mode. It signals business as usual.

But change is not business as usual.

“Perfection is the enemy of engagement”

If you want people to contribute and participate you should aim to produce something that looks a bit rougher, something that signals that things are not set in stone.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: The rise of wonky comms

I once did a presentation on the topic of drawn communication to a design consultancy and someone there said they use the same tactic: they call it communicating at the “appropriate level of fidelity”.

They actively make prototypes look a bit crappier so that the client focuses on the right things. When you want people to focus on ideas – on how things work, on the solutions – you do NOT show anything slick. That makes the client focus on the graphics, the surface.

Don’t make your employees focus on the surface. Make them engage with the IDEAS behind the content. Drawings tend to engage more

Drawings and drawn storytelling are a pretty good way to invite your employees to think and engage with you. There is something about the hand drawn line that says: hey, it’s just a drawing – you can still change things, you are invited to think about this.

The wobblier the line the better. (This is one reason I tend to avoid vector graphics – they make things look too smooth).

Drawn communication (comics, narrative infographics etc) are also generally much faster to produce than slick videos – and can be used flexibly (you can reuse the images in presentations, animations, posters, mugs.. ). So they are better suited for faster paced communication where change is a constant.

Drawings can communicate the abstract

Most change is at least partly about abstraction: new processes, new strategies, new markets etc.

That can present a problem for video or photos. Can you take a photo of the pension scheme? The new solution? No, but you can draw it – thanks to visual metaphors. Try producing a video on the topic and chances are you end up with a boring talking head clip that explain nothing.

Loosen up a bit?
So next time there is a big change project in the pipeline – especially if the people running the change programme use words like “agile” and “design thinking”- why not take the opportunity to do things differently?

And by the way: the people who bang on about agile and design thinking, and I guarantee you will hear these words more and more, are the kind of people who tend to avoid communications people since they know comms will insist of clumsy, slow corporate communication.

Why not collaborate with them instead?

They are often visual people anyway so chances are you would have no problem in communicating in pictures! And chances are they have many interesting stories for you to tap into.

And at the end of the day – they are just drawings :).

Post author: Virpi Oinonen @voinonen from www.businessillustrator.com

Thank you Virpi. What do you think about what you’ve read? As ever you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

My view? You need a balance and blend when it comes to communicating change in your organisation. You need to check for understanding and use the channels you know will resonate. That may be face-to-face, perhaps team briefings or even email (gasp!). Adding illustrations into the mix can help aid understanding and ensure messages are viewed and understood.

Do you use drawings to communicate change? If you’ve got a story to share, do please get in touch.

Further reading via my blog on topics in this article

Communicating change at Westminster City Council
How to use Pinterest for internal communication
Communicating change at the BBC
Communicating change at the Washington Post
All change for internal communications?
The rise of responsive organisations
Ideas to help you roll out and use Yammer
Who’s using what for internal social media?
Community management basics for IC pros
How to use Yammer for BCP
Seven golden rules for using Yammer.

Want to learn about change communication?
Sign up to my All Things IC Change Communication Masterclass on 20 June 2018 in London.

Thank you for stopping by,


First published on the All Things IC blog 12 June 2017. Updated 2018.



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