Keep calm and communicate
The very ubiquitous “keep calm and communicate” was really not put to use during World War II as there never really emerged a need for it. Winston Churchill and his Ministry of Information, however, used a lot of other very effective communication tools that came to be collectively known as British Propaganda during WW2.
Winston Churchill had a vision which was Freedom, Peace and Economic Progress for Britain. Every organization has a vision and a purpose for existence. Making this into a shared vision inspiring the rank and file would be the purpose of any leader and his communication strategy. The British leadership knew the importance of communication and shared vision so much so that “The Ministry of Information” was formed exactly a day after Britain declared war on 4th September 1939 with a mission to “present the national case to the public at home and abroad”.
Existing media was effectively used to reach out to citizens in every nook and corner of the country. The Ministry of Information funded movie producers and the messaging was suited to the existing conditions. Before 1941, the movies were focused on “the real evil” perpetrated by the Axis and German brutality, this strengthened the will to continue the struggle. By 1942, when the threat of invasion was gone, the messaging changed to evoke sympathy for fellow humans as a cause to continue the fight.
Posters were used to send multiple messages from time to time. These were targeted messages appealing to different sections of citizenry and creating in them a sense of purpose as to how they could contribute to the war. Posters inspired housewives to join the factories, parents to evacuate children from high threat zones, appealed to officers to avoid careless talks, and in general posters that vilified the Axis of evil. Every citizen had a part to play and knew exactly what was required of him to achieve that lofty vision set out by his leader. Communication of an organization’s vision is key to getting people onboard the journey. What is even more important is to tell them how they can contribute to this purpose. It is, therefore, imperative not just to have specific individual goals but also tie them to the organizational vision and strategy.
Winston Churchill’s radio speeches are the stuff of legend and need no elaboration; they appealed to the people to contribute in every way possible. He ensured that every situation whether beneficial or disadvantageous to the British cause was communicated, the former with a touch of pride and the latter to evoke sympathy. Achieving milestones, big wins, small losses and learnings from them, great product releases, beautiful customer reviews etc take organizations one step closer to their vision. Communicating these keeps the sense of purpose alive
A lot of organizations create vision statements, the difference between the ones that achieve them and the ones that don’t is how a leader’s vision is espoused by every member of the organization. Drilling down the vision to key actionables through an individual’s goals and ensuring that individuals stay the course through regular and timely feedback is of paramount importance. Oh! And let’s not forget to celebrate those small successes that make all the effort worth it!