Tag Archives: internal communicators

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.

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.