Your Safety Communication Sucks
Marie-Claire Ross from Digicast was telling me today that she was lampooned by the “Nutbag and Knobhead Brigade” (my words) on a LinkedIn Forum (surprise, surprise – LOL!) for a recent article she wrote: You know you suck at Safety Communication when…
She recently wrote in her newsletter:
Oops – I offended the safety establishment – Last week, I wrote and published an article that caused dissent. People were outraged.
But here’s the interesting thing. It was the fastest read article I’ve ever written. Within 24 hours, more than 1,000 people had read it. That’s faster than my previous record of 600.
So why the outrage? I used poor grammar in the title, I talked about negative content, I had a couple of typos, I wrote it in my pyjamas. Okay, that last one was a joke, but it could have been valid to the handful of people who wanted to have a go at me for daring to make them question their communication style.
One of the things I talk about in my book, Transform your Safety Communication is the power of titles to grab attention. In the book, I walk through some examples of what titles safety professionals can use. Personally, I like to play around with headings. No matter how good your content, it’s your title that makes all the difference.
So I decided to test You know you suck at Safety Communication when…
It worked a treat. Many of you know that I prefer a positive communication style. For this one, I used some negative examples, but made them more palatable by adding humour.
So while I managed to upset a certain demographic (can you guess their age and gender? – ooh, I’m so naughty for even saying that!). The truth is many people were happy to have their mindsets shifted. It’s always the ones that are stuck in their way and don’t want to be challenged that will get upset with a different perspective.
And this is the moral of the story – you have to keep trying new styles of communication. You can’t keep writing the same old stuff, in the same old way and expect different results. And sometimes, trying a cheeky title means upsetting the establishment. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time they got uncomfortable.
Personally, I don’t like that title. But I like that over 2,000 people have read the article and have questioned what they do. And the real question is – do you want to be read or ignored? Well, of course you want to be read! Otherwise, how do you change your workplace with your safety messages.
In the article, MC published this little list of the 10 typical mistakes made by safety people (Yeah I reckon I am guilty of all of them – thanks for the reality check MC!). If you cant personally identify with just one of these then I know a Brigade you can join
So you know you suck at safety communication when you believe that:
- The only way to get people to listen to you is to scare them with gory visuals and in-person re-enactments. Fear is a perfectly reasonable method to get attention and it’s not manipulative in any way.
- Threatening your CEO that if he doesn’t give you more safety budget – OSHA, WorkSafe (insert your safety body here) will put him in jail.
- Having small chats with people should be avoided because they’re boring and they should just do their job. You don’t need to know about their personal life.
- But, having big chats with people about a new safety procedure while they’re busy doing something is a helpful way for them to remember important information.
- Communication can only be written when you have every single little detail available, so you can write a massive piece of communication that’s so comprehensive that people need to spend an hour reading it. Naturally, you don’t believe Colin Powell, the former secretary of state for the US when he said, “I can make a decision with 30% of information. Anything more than 80% is too much.”
- Safety is very interesting and everyone looks forward to reading your Safety Bulletin. People talk about it around the water cooler.
- Reading out recent accidents across your region is the best way to start a safety meeting.
- Putting up notes to let people know publicly that they’ve violated a safety regulation. In my office building, a range of businesses share a communal kitchen. One exasperated business owner put a note in the kitchen to request the return of their kettle. A safety consultant wrote a stern reply “Always thought it was a health and safety risk. Next time, ensure you cable isn’t near any potential water hazard.” Poor timing, unsympathetic and well, there was no next time. Kettle was stolen.
- Only safety information is important. All other company information must be ignored. Particularly, in team meetings. If other people start talking about their department, start writing copious notes to yourself about random stuff. Look busy and important because you’re in safety.
- Starting a presentation with a joke that isn’t related to the safety content. Or anything really. But it was funny once.