Communicator and marketer are among the many roles travel managers are asked to play. A communications specialist herself, Katharine Farrell of the Dots & Lines consultancy offers pointers on how to promote corporate travel programs to various internal stakeholders.
Crafting messages that resonate, spur action and have a lasting impact is hard. With renewed focus in a hot labor market on traveler engagement to drive compliance and satisfaction, companies have added marketing to the hats worn by many corporate travel managers. Newer ways of communicating provide solutions, but also may add to the challenge.
That this area is getting more attention recently is not just due to competition for talent. Strategically using marketing and communications tactics to improve program compliance can result in big savings, particularly in mature programs that may find it challenging to realize year-over-year improvements through sourcing alone. Mondelez cut its T&E spending by more than 20 percent through employee engagement, according to BCD Travel’s Advito. Kellogg Company used a communications and branding campaign to reduce costs. It elevated the travel manager’s visibility within the organization.
Travel managers may have limited experience or resources to build a strategy. Here are a few questions to get you started on an effective plan.
What is my status?
First, it’s a good idea to take stock of what you’re already doing. Who are all the stakeholders? Are there others who could or should be involved? What channels are you using (email, mail, signage around the office, digital or printed memos, social media, internal networks)? How do you measure the success of your approach? Doing a SWOT analysis can help structure this assessment.
Why am I communicating? What’s my purpose?
To determine the overall goal of your communications plan, consider companywide goals and metrics for success. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to identify specific goals. Utilizing the SMART methodology (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) can help make your goals as effective as possible.
Who is my audience?
Create a map of stakeholders based on interest and influence. The C-suite, VIPs, road warriors, infrequent travelers, executive assistants, HR and legal all need communications specific to their needs. Some need more focus and frequent attention than others.
When, where and how should I communicate?
Impactful communications recognize timing and location. The best channel for each of your stakeholder groups — as well as the best time to reach them — varies by organization, and will require some testing. Email still is a primary communications method. Text messaging, corporate intranets, social networks and mobile apps are worthy of consideration. Once you have a good handle on when and where to communicate, ensure your messaging is in line with your corporate culture. The approach of a company with a strict stance towards travel policy compliance will differ from one that allows greater flexibility at the traveler level.
How do I execute? What are my resources?
Is this going to be a do-it-yourself project or can your marketing, communications and/or HR departments assist you? Consider summer interns from local universities who are adept at writing or design. Perhaps you can secure the budget for an outside consultant. These decisions will impact the speed, breadth and quality of implementation.
Once you set your strategy, the fun of crafting individual messages and curating content can begin. Leveraging best practices from other industries (such as retail) or research on behavioral economics (like “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein) can help provide inspiration for high-quality content.
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