Tag Archives: ic strategy

Guest blog: how to be a real IC pro

Sean Williams, owner of Communication AMMO and managing consultant for True Digital Communications, blogs about why measurement is the key to better IC for your business.

We shouldn’t need to say it. As internal communicators, we’re one of the few in an organisation who can take the pulse of the firm. Even in our editorial roles, we talk to people all the time.

We (hopefully) know the business, its goals, challenges, strengths. We understand leadership’s priorities and how communication can help move them forward.

We’re the experts. You might say that in some ways, we need to change how we approach our work. We have to change as professionals.

We need to make decisions based on facts and data, not conjecture and conventional wisdom. That takes research.

I’m not saying it all has to be quantitative, academically bullet-proof (though that doesn’t hurt), but we’re the only ones who can bring employee intelligence forward to the leadership.

We need to find the balance between just executing and doing proper outreach, judging the effectiveness of our messaging, channels, tools and techniques.

Imagine a conversation with your boss like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got 400 hits on our strategy story last week!

Boss – So?

You – Uhhhhhh.

Been there? It should be more like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got a lot of comments on the strategy story. Most were OK, but a couple of them make me think we need to test some other ways of explaining the strategy to make it more relevant to more people. I followed up with a couple of calls to some people, and I have some ideas about what to do differently.

B – Tell me more!

Sean Williams
Sean Williams

That’s a different dynamic. We need more research up front, more evaluation during our communication activities, and more measurement afterwards to connect with business objectives.

I know internal commsters are totally slammed, but this is about being a serious business person. No other department gets away with ignoring this vital discipline.

The fact is that the ‘traditional’ IC person – the ex-journalist who primarily is a writer/editor, who has little experience within the operations of the business, and/or whose educational background is outside the business world – may be considered an endangered species.

In the US, IC is usually part of HR, PR, or occasionally the legal department. There is little professional education focused on the strategic assets of IC, except for the Corporate Executive Board (which now offers the IC Black Belt programme begun by Melcrum).

There still is too much emphasis on the ‘tools’ of IC – enterprise social networks, intranets, SharePoint and the like – and not enough on the research, measurement and evaluation that tests connections between employee communication effectiveness and business results.

Here are three things that I believe all IC people should focus on right away:

1. Brush up your research skills. We need not become statisticians, but we should gain familiarity with the common measures at the output level – and test the connections to both communication outcomes and to business impact. These can be quantitative and/or qualitative. Take a class, for heaven’s sake. Then do some interviews, convene some focus groups, send out a SurveyMonkey – and use the data to change and improve your plans.

2. Do a time study. Take a hard look at what you and your team are doing day to day. Which activities contribute most significantly to organisational objectives? Which don’t? Stop doing things that don’t add value. Of course, this is a difficult road to drive – but you can refocus on higher value-added activities. The proof will be in the pudding.

3. Ask more questions. We need to understand what is changing, or needs to change, in our organisation. We need to know what we’re trying to accomplish, the objectives and goals of those changes. Ask ‘why?’ What are the reasons behind the decisions we’re making? And, not least, what is the effect on our people? The easy acronym is CORE – it’s what our people want to know about virtually everything.

If we dedicate ourselves to these three tasks, we’ll be well on the way to becoming the IC pros of the future.

You’ve done your channel audit — now what?

A channel audit is just the first step on the way to a streamlined, totally effective suite of communications channels.

Once you’ve established what channels are useful and which aren’t, you need to retire the ones that are no longer serving a purpose or have been superseded by newer, better channels.

There is a lot of risk here because it is easy to upset or annoy colleagues who may rely on the channels you are removing plus you may inadvertently remove a channel that is serving a specific purpose that is not covered by the others.

So here’s a seven-point plan to get you started:

1. Was your audit good enough?

Before you refine your channels, take another look at your audit. Are you confident that the methods used were robust? Was your measurement accurate? Did you speak to the right stakeholders? It helps to have an honest sense check before you take anything away.

2. Don’t just delete channels!

Once you are happy with your audit, it is really tempting just to start getting rid of the channels that don’t work. This is the worst thing you can do. If an email newsletter suddenly stops arriving or a magazine ceases publication, all this will do is alienate your audience and cause confusion.

3. Work out what is going where

Look at the content for the channels you are going to retire and work out where that content will now live (should it still be needed). This will ensure you don’t lose anything important in the process.

4. Create a timetable for removing channels

Don’t take on too much by trying to deal with all the channels simultaneously. Create a timetable and make sure all interested parties and stakeholders have bought into the process and plan.

5. Communicate what is happening and why

Once you’ve done all of the above, tell your audience about it. There will always be people who use channels you are about to get rid of (even if it’s only a couple of them!) so make sure you communicate what you are going to do and let people know where they can find the content in future.

6. It’s not a science, so be prepared to make changes

You might retire a channel, then realise you still need it. This is ok. The perfect channel mix takes time and trial and error to get right, so don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it right straight away. Just remember to keep your audience updated on what is happening.

7. Now you are in a good place, measure to stay there

Once your channel mix is looking better, keep it that way by making sure you measure the success of each one and do regular temperature checks. If you don’t stay on top of this, you will end up needing to do a big audit again in a couple of years time.

It goes without saying that the team at Headlines can help with any/all of the activities discussed in this blog. So, if you don’t have the in-house expertise, resources or time to do it yourself, just give us a call.