Transparency emerges from audience-centred communication.
2013: Doxa Deo
Attention to detail and respect for the views of all stakeholders involved – even those who are still learning to read and write – helped our client to retain control of a potentially disruptive change process.
Doxa Deo is a multinational South Africa-based church group that wishes to positively influence society through, among other ways, Christ-centred education. To this end, the church opened eight schools between 1998 and 2013.
The Doxa Deo growth vision was premised on acquiring or building new schools. But to do so, it needed a partner to invest the necessary capital.
By May 2013, two private equity companies had emerged as possible partners and Doxa Deo realised that it needed expert assistance to navigate the huge, imminent change process. Based on the work that DevCom had done with the church over the previous three years, we were the natural choice for this assignment. This existing partnership meant that we already had a good understanding of the organisation, its audiences (both internal and external), and the health of its communication processes.
DevCom’s brief was threefold:
- Channel information that could and should influence the partnership decision from the internal audiences to the decision-makers,
- Be involved in strategic scenario planning, and
- Plan and lead the implementation of a proactive change communication campaign from start to finish.
The main goal was to secure the partnership, with the Doxa Deo community intact. The leaders took the tough but wise decision to disclose that they were investigating partnering opportunities before they knew who the partner would be.
Our first step was to establish a core team that included DevCom, the strategic head of the church, the director of the largest school, and communication champions in each environment. This team met at least every second week to discuss communication strategy, progress, and messages. This ensured that all the communicators were well-rehearsed and on the same page when tough questions arose.
The change communication project was further complicated by the fact that the eight Doxa Deo schools were in different parts of the country. Each community’s unique characteristics had to be considered in the communication plan. Because of this, we created customised versions of every communication tool for each school and its audience’s needs. The local communicators and principals assisted greatly in informing these needs and requirements and ensuring quality under tight deadlines.
During or after every communication cycle, we gathered questions from the audiences and responded to each one honestly in the following round of communication. We used these to compile a frequently asked questions (FAQs) document, which became the communication champions’ script.
After every update in the cycle, we held in-person dialogue and engagement sessions between leadership, communication messengers, and their audiences, which enhanced two-way communication.
We also created a number of cartoon maps to explain complex messages. Initially developed with the pupils in mind, the maps proved valuable for all our audiences.
When the partnership was formally announced in November 2013, the church and school audiences embraced the new partners wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.
Our post-campaign evaluation showed that 55% of the audience was positive about the partnership. More than 88% of the audience felt that the change process had been handled effectively. They also appreciated the communication and participated in and valued the dialogue process.
It was most gratifying to learn that not a single teacher, parent, or pupil had left a Doxa Deo school during this uncertain time. In an environment where the grapevine used to trump proactive communication, a transparent and robust change communication process had delivered an immense return on investment.
One of the cartoon maps we developed for the client as a content creator.