Tag Archives: internal comms tips

How to source stories in your organisation

Stories are incredibly powerful tools. They influence, inspire and move people. They can change behaviour and get people thinking.

But, in an organisation, sourcing stories is sometimes easier said than done – especially when the sources you’re relying on don’t really know what makes a story.

There are a few steps you can take to help you track down the best stories in your organisation.

Build solid relationships
As an internal communicator, you need to build strong relationships at every level of your organisation. From the cleaner or the graduate, to the senior manager or the CEO, you need to make it your business to get to know the business – and the people within it. By making friends in every department, you’ll always have a steady stream of information and tip-offs about what’s going on.

Network
If there are any events going on in your business – from a huge conference to a tiny bake sale – an internal communicator should pop along. By having everyday conversations with as many people as possible, stories worth sharing are bound to crop up.

Engage line managers
When it comes to sharing stories of brilliant colleagues, it’s unlikely that anyone will get in touch with the IC department to share a story about something great they’ve done. Their line manager is far more likely to contact an internal communicator to lavish some praise – so make sure you get them on board.

Leadership stories
CEOs and senior leaders often have a lot to say – but their messages can be dry, business-focused and top-down. Consider another way: humanise your leadership team and present them as individuals. Encourage them to be open and share information about the person behind the suit, such as the time they climbed a mountain, how they are embracing the company values in everyday life, or the story of how they got to where they are.

Be nosy – scout social channels and notice boards
ESNs can be a great way of sourcing stories. You might feel a bit nosy scouting through online conversations, but it can be a source of gold when it comes to finding interesting tales worth sharing. The same goes for noticeboards; keep your eyes peeled and you could find a gem.

Identify champions
Setting up a network of champions can be a productive way of sourcing stories. Identify story champions at each site or in each department and ask them to keep their ear to the ground and to let you know if they hear of anything interesting going on in their area.

Bring dry content to life
You’ll lose count of the number of times you’re given reams of facts and piles of reports that need sharing with the workforce. Instead of churning out another corporate message, consider turning the information into a story. Look for a colleague who can tell the story from the bottom up and who can offer a fresh, real perspective that makes it worth reading. Alternatively, turn the facts into an infographic that colleagues will want to share on your ESN.

Keep an eye on the news
National news stories about your industry or company can be a good source of inspiration for internal communicators. You might just like to share a story that colleagues might find interesting, or you could gather a series of views on a hot topic and share the vox pops around the business. Just remember – with this kind of story, timing is everything, so act quickly before it’s old news.

Measure outcomes, not outputs, to judge the impact of communication

“If we want to be taken seriously as business people specialising in communication, then we have to stop desperately trying to prove our value to organisations.”

So says Sean Williams, Founder and CEO of Communication AMMO and adjunct professor of Public Relations at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Sean and his colleagues from the US Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission have just finished work on a study to identify a series of standards for IC measurement.

Their findings are due to be unveiled at the International Public Relations Research Conference in Orlando, Florida, in March.

Throughout their research, the group avoided looking at output measurements, such as circulation figures for internal publications and number of intranet stories published.

This kind of data is a staple in many IC audits and status reports, but Sean argues that it doesn’t reveal anything about how successful IC activity is.

For him, effective communication isn’t about the size of your audience, but about how that audience reacts to your message.

“We call it ‘look mommy’ communications,” said Sean. “But we have to be certain that we’re adding value to the business.”

Sean explained that during his research he and his group analysed three aspects of internal communication and how it feeds into measurable outcomes:

• IC activity (what we do)
• Outcome (what happened as a result)
• Business impact (how the outcome affects some aspect of the business)

For Sean, this goes to the heart of how we define ‘effective’ communication, and what needs to be measured.

He said: “The sophisticated IC measurer is going to make sure that whatever they’re doing – focus groups, interviews, whatever – they’re capturing information and trying new things to effect an impact.

“What is it that happened as a result of our communications, that changed the way people think or act? And did they take some sort of action in support of business results?

“When you can look at things and say, for example, ‘productivity is up but safety is down’, there might be a communication disconnect somewhere.

“That’s when you start to look at things like where you’re wasting time, where you’re losing productivity, where you can reduce your touchpoints, and so forth. That’s where we all need to be.”

To read more of Sean’s thoughts on the world of IC, check out his blog.

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.

How IC can help you find and hire the best employees

Paul Peters from applicant tracking system Betterteam blogs on how a company’s current employees can be an untapped source of excellent job candidates.

We’re living in one of the toughest hiring climates of all time.

It’s taking a record 29 days to find employees and more job openings are going unfilled than ever before.

But what many companies are failing to realise is that current employees are an untapped source; they can identify the very best candidates for your business.

They can help you reach ‘passive’ candidates who are not yet on the market or who aren’t actively looking for jobs – and who make up about 75 per cent of your potential pool.

Leveraging employees can also give you inside information that helps you find and attract better candidates on LinkedIn and job boards, especially for competitive roles.

How to handle referrals

This is the most obvious, tried and tested way of leveraging current employees to attract new ones.

Many companies reward successful referrals, which may be expected in some industries. For me, this puts the emphasis in the wrong place.

You want employees recommending people not because of a bonus, but because they really want to work with those they’re recommending.

Working with great people improves everyone’s day and makes the company more profitable. In turn, people ideally get paid more, receive more promotions and have more job security.

That said, recognition doesn’t cost a thing and can go a long way towards making an employee happy. If a referral is successful, be sure to thank the referring employee when you announce the new hire.

How should you approach asking for referrals?

At an education startup I once ran, we found many of our best employees by putting out a message via email or Slack, informing employees that we were hiring and which positions we were hiring for.

We would generally ask: Where can we find the best person to do this job? Or: Do you know someone you would love to work with?

I’d also recommend sending employees some pre-written copy that they can post to social media to help put the word out. This is an effective way to reach passive candidates.

If you’re hiring engineers, for example, engineers at your company are likely to have contacts from their past or on social. Even if they aren’t seeking employment, they may see your employee’s post and get in touch.

Leverage employees to win at LinkedIn recruiting

This is a bit more proactive than asking for referrals and a great tactic in tough hiring times.

Talk to your very best hires and ask them about the best teams they’ve ever worked in, and where and when it was. It’s likely that their experience links to a high point at the company they worked for.

Through LinkedIn’s advanced search tool, you’ll be able to find out who else worked there at that time.

Ask your current employees to introduce you to anyone who looks like they might be a good fit. Talk to them about why the potential candidate might like the position and use that when you make contact.

How your employees can help you write killer job postings

If there’s any risk to getting help from your employees with recruiting, it’s becoming too dependent on it.

By failing to post your job elsewhere, you may not reach a diverse enough audience and could miss out on potentially great hires.

But yet again, your current employees can help you succeed, by influencing your job board postings.

Nearly all job postings are the same; they read like a bullet pointed list of demands by the employer. This gives you a terrific opportunity to set yourself apart.

Forget writing out all the possible qualifications and requirements for a job – keep them to a minimum.

Instead, ask current employees what it is about the job, the workplace, their fellow employees and the location of your business that would make someone want to work there. That’s what to include in your job posting.

Potential applicants are like customers you’re trying sell to. A little effort into this part of the recruiting process will reap big rewards.

At Betterteam, we’ve helped several clients rewrite their job postings this way.

After taking this approach to an endodontist position that hadn’t received an applicant in months, the company received two well-qualified applicants within three days, and hired a great employee a short time later.

Don’t let this tough hiring climate hold you back! Improve communication with your employees and let them show you the way to making your next great hire.

Guest blog: IC in the season of goodwill

The season of goodwill is upon us, and it’s time for internal communications to share some love. Experienced IC interim Debra Channon shares some ideas on how to go about it.

Christmas lights are twinkling, the John Lewis and Sainsbury’s ads are out and, if you’re like me, you’ve already succumbed to a Terry’s Chocolate Orange or two; all sure signs that the season of goodwill is upon us.

And with thoughts turning to giving and getting, here are a few ideas for how IC can share some goodwill now and into 2017.

BE GRATEFUL

The end of the year is a great time to say thank you to the people who’ve helped you and your team during 2016. Reflect on the past 12 months, draw up a list of people who’ve supported you through your challenges and achievements and then decide how you’re going to thank them. However you show your gratitude, make sure it’s personal, specific and appropriate. Remind the recipients of what they did, how they helped you and how much you appreciate them.

Remember also to thank employees in your organisation. So much of IC and employee engagement is about persuading, motivating and incentivising employees to give over and above, so ensure that your end-of-year communications thank employees sincerely for their hard work and commitment.

Consider how you can cultivate an ongoing culture of gratitude as a team. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Put gratitude on the agenda

Use your team meetings to identify the people who’ve helped and supported you, then show them your gratitude. Encourage other teams to do the same.

  • Give compliments

When colleagues do great things, tell them. Email the CFO when the annual results are announced to thank the finance team for a great job, praise the catering team when lunch was exceptionally good and invite your HR colleagues to your department for cakes when they’ve launched their latest employee initiative. Ensure your compliments are genuine – and when someone compliments you, smile and thank them.

  • Commit to being positive

Vow not to complain, criticise or gossip. You’ll soon notice how it benefits everyone around you and helps you and your team to do a great job. Also look for the positive in people. However difficult or negative others seem, try to understand what might be behind their behaviour.

  • Focus on feedback not failure

If things go wrong, don’t let them destroy your confidence or set you back. Be grateful for the lessons you’ve learnt and aim to do better next time.

Practicing gratitude in the workplace (and outside) can have incredible benefits. It helps to put situations in perspective and to focus on the positive. It makes us appreciate what we have and the people around us and it reduces feelings of dissatisfaction. It connects and reconnects people, and makes for more cooperative, collaborative working relationships. And, it makes work much more fun – always something to be grateful for!

GIVE MORE

The season of goodwill is also an opportunity to consider how you can make a difference in 2017. One of the easiest ways to do this is to give more. Here are some ideas:

  • Volunteer

Many organisations have employee volunteering schemes so lead the way and get involved. Or if there’s nothing in place, be the catalyst in getting something set up. Perhaps think about volunteering outside of your company scheme too. Whether you decide to work on a helpline, organise collections for a nearby food bank, clean out kennels at the local animal shelter or become a school governor, volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

  • Pro bono

Pro bono differs from other volunteering as it’s about using your professional skills for the good of others. Many charities desperately need help with their communications; so put yourself forward to do publicity, campaigns, community liaison or social media for a great cause.

  • Mentor

Sharing your knowledge and expertise with others can be a lovely way to give back. Whether you’re mentoring children, disadvantaged young people or entrants into IC, you’ll have a wealth of experience to give. Get involved in an existing mentoring scheme or arrange something yourself and, whatever you do, ensure you commit fully so your mentee gets the best of you.

  • Give more of yourself

At times everyone can get a little complacent. While this may signal that you need a break, it can also be a sign that you need to up your game. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving more time; you can give more focus, ideas, creativity, passion or consideration and care. You’ll do a better job when you give more, and you’ll like what you do a lot more, too.

  • Give yourself the edge

Invest in yourself. Update your personal development plan, get involved in the IoIC or other professional bodies, read and network more, complete a sporting challenge, ask for 360-degree feedback and find yourself a coach or mentor. No one is too old or too senior for development.

As 2016 draws to a close and we look forward to some time off, here are a few final thoughts around giving and getting. As internal communicators we’ve one of the most trusted and privileged roles in business. We’re given unmatched opportunity to understand and get involved in all that our organisations do.

Similarly, we’re given access to people from senior leaders to frontline operators that no other discipline is routinely allowed. And we get the opportunity to influence performance and culture. It’s a wonderful, exciting and ever-evolving profession, so let’s be truly grateful that we’re part of it.