How to communicate the end of 2021

Are you planning year-end internal communication activities?

Are you being asked to mark the end of 2021 in an appropriate way?

If so, you’re not alone. I can see from my blog stats you’re looking for advice and guidance to help you communicate. A 2017 article is proving particularly popular.

It feels timely to update the advice because, well, the past 20 months happened. If you’re struggling to think of what to do as 2021 draws to a close, I’ve got you covered.

Further reading: What’s top of mind for Comms pros in 2022, featuring our latest Online Masterclass: How to review and plan your 2021 – 2022 Internal Comms.

I’ve noticed a shift from people communicating about Christmas and using the phrase festivities instead. Does that resonate with you?

Let’s be honest and recognise the fact this year has been, and continues to be, incredibly tough. Many of the Comms pros we are advising are running on empty.

The stress and expectation for Comms pros to pull something amazing out of the hat to mark the end of a difficult year adds pressure.

I hope the end of 2021 gives you a chance to down tools and rest. Goodness knows you deserve it.

Here at All Things IC, Team Teal and I thought we’d share the following advice with you.

Comms Consultant Debbie West says: “As we think about celebrating the good things about the past year and the start of another, we have a great opportunity to allow our colleagues to tell us how they like to reflect and whether they celebrate or not.

“It’s a good time to encourage dialogue and improve a sense of belonging and inclusion around a common point in time.”

Comms Consultant Caroline King says: “Use the close of the year to slow down and reflect. When January starts it’s easy to jump straight back on the merry go round. Take time to identify some stand out moments that made you smile. These could be really simple – like having a first in person cuppa after so long behind a screen. Investing in your personal development. Giving or receiving thanks and praise for a job well done.”

I hope you find this article useful to help you prepare.

I Tweeted @AllThingsIC and wrote a post on LinkedIn to invite Comms pros to share their views with readers of the All Things IC blog. Thank you to everyone who got in touch, this article highlights your thoughts.

The question I asked was: “What’s your top tip for year-end Comms?”

Focusing on language

Leia Farnan, Colleague Comms & Engagement Tesco Bank: “We have moved to celebrating the Festive period, to be inclusive, recognising not all our colleagues celebrate Christmas. My top tip: Try and shut out other comms noise. Throughout the year there are lots of asks of colleagues and we’re focusing our December comms on reflection, recognition, coming together (albeit virtually!) and festive fun.”

Gabriele Bubokaite: “In our organisation we are referring to the festivities as a Holiday Season. And my top tip, especially, after a long period of fatigue is to extend the celebration from one-off event to maybe a week or so of activities. People need a reason to smile, get away from backlogs for a minute, and enjoy some bright moments with teams as wreath or cookie workshops, online magic show, gift delivery, cheery videos, etc. Brand such week like you would any other comms campaign for that extra zing and don’t forget to measure results.”

Being mindful of all colleagues

Melisa Kakas, Internal Communications Manager, British Business Bank: “Make sure you’re inclusive and warm. We might not all celebrate the same holidays but we all deserve a moment to be recognised and thanked for the work we did this year. Involve your leadership when crafting your message, use examples and formats that work for your organisation (don’t copy what others are doing – they have their own culture) and try to get the human side of your organisation shine in your festive communications. Now is the right time to do it.”

Dan Holden, Internal Communications and Colleague Engagement Manager, CPI EuroMix Mortars Ltd: “Don’t forget to celebrate those colleagues in support functions. Often they can get overlooked yet play a fundamental part in the business.”

Julia Rogers, Corporate Communications Manager, Coventry University: “We like to reflect and celebrate. We have a virtual gratitude wall where colleagues can post messages of thanks to other colleagues/ teams for their work and support over the past year. We also create profile features with colleagues who are ‘keeping campus going’ over the break, supporting those students who may be staying on campus.”

Lindsay Martin, Content Strategy, Data and AI Development, IBM Canada Lab: “I think it’s about knowing your employees and what their celebrations and cultural practices are. That way, seasonal well wishes can be be meaningful and inclusive without being too generic.”

Josephine Graham, Internal Comms Lead, Bradford Council: “If some colleagues are working over Christmas due to shifts / essential cover, acknowledge with a special thank you. Not everyone celebrates Christmas – recognise thisDammit we’re all tired! Not everyone is ‘celebrating’ – for some it’s time to rest.”

Year-end Comms

Focusing on mental health and wellbeing

Julie Shaw: “1) Find unique ways to recognise people and have fun. It really helps with connection and motivation. 2) Reach out to mental health first aiders to remind them on signs to spot of people struggling & how to support.”

Harriet Small, Internal Communications Lead, London Borough of Hackney: “Don’t make assumptions about people’s experiences during the holidays. Share messaging about support information.”

Harriet Small

Sam Burne James: “Make sure you’re aware of loneliness as a social issue, and don’t stereotype it as just an older person/retired thing. @EndLonelinessUK is good for big picture info.”

Heather Djuranovic, Senior Internal Communications Officer: “Increase the amount of people based content – share inspirational stories, focus on the feel good factor. Psychological studies show that positivity & happiness is contagious. Also ensure there is a safe place to talk about well-being & that any available services are visible.”

Alyson Davis, Crispin Communications: “After the year we’ve all had, being able to share the hard work and continued successes of teams given all the challenges we’ve faced is an absolute must! This year I’ll be producing a festive leadership town hall and an infographic with our year in numbers. My top tip for year end comms is to have colleagues know they have made a significant contribution which is heartfelt by leadership. Your people will go on their leave with a warm feeling and will want to come back in January refreshed and raring to go!”

New challenges and planning ahead

Robert Aichele, Senior Director, Communications & Engagement, Ross Stores, California: “Business as usual. The world changed and it’s full of new challenges, but our business objectives haven’t changed. Organisations that focus on moving forward from here have the drop on those caught up in bygone strategies.”

Jan Fitzgerald, Internal Communications Manager, Transport for London: “On the back of a hectic year and a half of churn and constantly evolving messaging, reverting back to basics with measurement/targeting is essential. The pandemic demanded a lot of mass comms – seize the opportunity to re-engage people with thoughtful, tailored content.

Rich Perrett, Internal Communications, Unite Students: “Start early to help people and teams plan, whether that’s when and how you’ll be having fun, or practicalities such as keeping everyone safe during Covid, festive budgets and of course when December pay day will be!

Becky Handy, Communications Manager, Allegis Group: “Help and encourage leaders be human and authentic in their end of year comms. It doesn’t have to be an advertising campaign of how amazing we were. That and not overdoing the ‘Here’s everything we’ll be focusing on next year’ – no one is going to remember it come 4 January!”

Margie Dolch
Margie Dolch, Senior Communications Specialist, Celanese, based in Texas, US: “We’re planning a Gratitude Week campaign to give  leaders and employees a chance to reflect on the year. Each day we will post a question for five days and invite colleagues to share their team and personal milestones. Other questions are more forward looking, asking what they’re looking forward to in the new year.”

I was curious to know more about Gratitude Week, thank you to Margie and Celanese’s engagement communications team. Margie told me: “The internal campaign is planned for the second week of December 2021 and this is the second year in a row we’re doing it, after such a warm reception from employees last year.

The questions we are asking employees:

  1. What are you grateful for?
  2. Who is someone you admire/appreciate?
  3. What challenges are you are grateful for in 2021 that have helped you grow as a person and/or in your career?
  4. What team accomplishment are you most proud of in 2021?
  5. What are you looking forward to in 2022?

What a lovely idea. Margie has kindly agreed to come back and share how the week goes, look out for her guest article on the All Things IC blog in future.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article. I hope you found it useful to spark ideas and fresh thoughts.

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Founder of All Things IC communication consultancy. Chartered PR Practitioner and CIPR Fellow.

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