Words matter.

A study conducted by Gary Latham PhD, replaced 12 words in an e-mail from a company president to his employees to demonstrate the power of word choice.

 A Powerful Reinforcement Loop With a Common Thread
A Powerful Reinforcement Loop With a Common Thread

Half of the company received the president’s original e-mail and half of the company received the same e-mail with 12 achievement-focused words added in. The result? After a week, objectively measured performance showed an increase in effectiveness by 15% and efficiency by 35% for the employees who received the achievement centric email.

12 Achievement Words Added to President's Email
12 Achievement Words Added to President’s Email

12 words were all it took to significantly increase performance and efficiency. We communicate tens of thousands of words each week (if not more). Are you sure that the words that you are choosing are the ones that will drive the right behaviors? The right attitudes? The right outcomes? 

Words matter.

Images matter.

Another great study showed that simply adding a picture to a communication can significantly improve performance and increase donations. The study was conducted in a call center where employees were given a reference sheet to use when making calls to solicit donations.

The researcher’s sheets had three scenarios – one was the control, one had a picture of a runner winning a race, and one had a picture of call-center workers working hard and smiling.

Call-center employees who had been given the “broad performance priming picture” of a runner winning the race performed 10% better than the control while employees who received the specific “performance priming picture” of the call center workers working hard performed 35% better! 

The image on the left increased performance by 10%, the one on the right by 35%
The image on the left increased performance by 10%, the one on the right by 35%

Everything else was the same – the only difference between these three groups was the picture placed in the corner of a help sheet. 

Images matter.


Each of these studies demonstrates the impact that seemingly minimal word and image choices can have on your employees. Given that corporate communications are made up of words and images – think about how powerful those choices can be when combined effectively. They can in fact be so powerful that they guide, mold, and define your company’s culture.   

We’ve talked previously about the importance of culture and how it can push a company to greatness or poison it with toxicity. Culture shapes your employees’ behaviors and attitudes – often profoundly. A good culture can help you soar, while a toxic culture can derail you.

Communication is the language of culture. 

It can be the catalyst that drives your desired culture, and the right behaviors within people. It can shape and mold it – for better or for worse.

Communication is also the language of teams.

Effective Communication Practices Can Shape Both Culture and Team Dynamics
Effective Communication Practices Can Shape Both Culture and Team Dynamics

Team dynamics help drive culture and culture helps create team dynamics. This reinforcing loop can either drive success or bolster shortcomings. Negative team dynamics can permeate up through the organization, impede performance, and undermine your culture, while positive team dynamics can cement the foundation for your company’s achievements.

Properly training your leaders on how to communicate to drive culture can be a huge win for your organization. Utilizing effective graphic design, creative and purposefully framed copy, and behavioral science principles when creating your speeches, webinars, corporate meetings, company-wide emails, and more can drastically assist in achieving your cultural goals. Failing to do so can detract from them.  

A few years ago we worked with a large pharmaceutical company on its fleet safety culture. The company had one of the worst at-fault accident rates in the industry and it was costing the company millions of dollars every year in claims and insurance. We worked closely with the company to explore how fleet safety was perceived by the field. In doing so, we uncovered some cultural norms about focusing on productivity while driving as opposed to being safe (i.e., answering a text, taking a call). 

We worked with the company on creating a new communication campaign, new loss-centered incentives as well as other technology enhancements. Our communication campaign changed the way the fleet booklet looked and the story it told. We visually highlighted, not only the cost that inattention had but the larger impact it could have on people’s lives.

Safety Framed Fleet Guidebooks + New Incentives = Huge Savings
Safety Framed Fleet Guidebooks + New Incentives = Huge Savings

Overall the campaign was a success. Within 6-months at-fault accident rates fell from 19% to 15%. The client highlighted that these changes not only impacted the behavior of their sales team but also how they thought about safety. 

There is no one size fits all magic recipe, and communication can be a challenging but rewarding milestone in creating a powerful culture.

How can we help you communicate to make yours a reality? Reach out below.

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Citations:

Prime and Performance: Can a CEO Motivate Employees Without Their Awareness?

https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/prime-and-performance-can-a-ceo-motivate-employees-without-their-

The Effect of Primed Goals on Employee Performance: Implications for Human Resource Management

https://www-2.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/file/37%20-%20Shantz%20&%20Latham%20HRM%202011.pdf