Be brave: It's no time to be scared of change in comms and media

How to ready your team for an ever-changing world? Embrace change itself, advises the Cleveland Clinic's Eileen Sheil.

As media shifts to an even more digital world, communications professionals must also evolve to be effective and efficient in reaching their audiences. The way we tell our stories is changing, and change isn’t always easy.

To prepare my team, I sought help from human resources colleagues, who have vast knowledge and extensive training on how to approach change, get buy-in from a team, and keep employees engaged and excited.

When you have a highly skilled and talented team of communications professionals, it’s important to involve them in the journey as you evolve. The core of what we do will be maintained, but how we do it will change in an increasingly digital world. Teams that are successful must get into the right mindset to make an even greater impact on our organization.  

Change is difficult, and as a matter of fact, only 15% of people accept change early. Thirty percent are considered "exploratory," meaning they will consider the change, but need to know how it will work. Another 40% resist, as they are fearful and skeptical of change. Finally, another 15% are in denial and feel that change won’t happen.

At Cleveland Clinic, we have to do two things from a communication perspective: change the way we tell our stories in a digital world to better connect with our audience and stakeholders and enhance our technology to communicate more efficiently and effectively to our internal audiences.

Cleveland Clinic, for example, has grown significantly in terms of our physical expansion nationally and internationally, as well as in terms of the number of employees, topping 50,000. Aligning our caregivers across our growing enterprise is more critical than ever. We are investing in technology that will allow us to reach employees with the right message through the right channel to drive engagement.

First, communications leaders need to have a clear vision that everyone understands, feels good about, and buys into to achieve success. A clear roadmap and a defined process are important.

Change also requires a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Communications professionals have to be able to try new things, learn from mistakes, and know that working together makes us better. We need to embrace the change and chart the course together. Those who are closest to the day-to-day work are essential in the process so challenges are brought up and addressed quickly. They are also instrumental in bringing a vision from ideation, to planning, execution, and, ultimately, sustainability.

To get your team ready for change, share the "why;" display a growth mindset yourself; manage resistance; get everyone involved, especially those who do the work; and own the change, especially if it’s part of your organizational culture. Cleveland Clinic’s culture is one of innovation at every level. We’re expected to do our best and grow.

There is no doubt communications, specifically public relations and internal communications, brings great value to an organization and supports employees’ understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Measuring your efforts is important to ensure your strategies are working.

Our goal is to evolve as a team and prepare for more of the same – constant change.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. She can be reached at

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