Internal Communications

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Review of "Internal Communications"

published 04/03/2004 | xalala
Member since : 23/05/2003
Reviews : 72
Members who trust : 31
About me :
Excellent
Pro It's rewarding, it gives you an excuse to be nosy about stuff in the name of good communications
Cons Can be a dumping ground for work people can't pigeonhole, have to be very careful re confidentiality
very helpful

""Internal Communications? What's that then?""

"Internal Communications? What's that then?" is a phrase I hear all too often when I explain what I do for a living.

I'm a communications consultant, events organiser, project manager, statistics expert and sometime writer. Amongst other things. How should that be summed up?!

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So, What Is Internal Communications Then?
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Internal Communications (let's call it IC for ease of typing!) is, basically, something a company does when it shares information with or collects information from its employees. This can include all sorts of things, from staff magazines, intranets (websites that are only accessible from within a company network), conferences and other live events, videos, business TV, surveys, question and answer sessions with senior management, and many, many other things.

It tends to be only large companies - say of 1000 or more staff - that have a dedicated IC function. In other companies, it's common to find that the job has been given to the MD's PA or a secretary who thinks that a newsletter would be a nice thing to have... This background means that working in IC is, almost without exception, a fight for recognition that what you do is adding value to the company, in terms of its financial performance, turnover levels, and the motivation and engagement of its employees.

A true IC practitioner sits at the right hand of the MD. It's their job to be tuned into what people are feeling about the company and their jobs, and presenting that view to the executive team. This means it can, on occasion, be exciting, intimidating and nervewracking! Ultimately, though, I find it a rewarding job - otherwise I'd be doing something else by now.

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So why do companies bother to communicate, anyway?
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Jolly good question! Basically, communications will depend on what a company is trying to achieve. If you need employees to serve customers, or operate in a competitive environment, then it's important that people understand the company, what it's goals are and where it sees itself going.

Communicating openly with employees helps them feel as though they have a say in the company, and how it is run. It helps "engage" people, can help people change their behaviour and, if you communicate consistently and well, puts you ahead of the game if you reach a time when there is bad news to talk about.

Ultimately, though, there is bags of research that shows that when employees understand the goals and objectives of the business, understand their role and the part they play in achieving business goals, then they are better motivated and more likely to enjoy their work and stay with the company for longer. This directly affects the bottom line - how much profit is made.

Basically, IC should:
clarify messages
pick up on any issues employees experience and feed them back to the senior team
communicate with people in a way that they understand - using familiar language and concepts
provide an internal consultancy service to advise on communication best practise, particularly in situations where the way people work is affected (redundancies, changes in working practices etc)
and much more beside!

The way internal communication works will depend very much on the sort of organisation it is. There are several possibilities: Distributor of messages, crafter and drafter, technical adviser, consultant or counsellor. The first two or three of these are, ultimately, of limited use to the organisation. They tend to be found in companies where the value of IC isn't fully understood, and the senior team isn't quite sure what to do with their internal communicators. The final two, consultant and counsellor, are where value can really be added.

What every communicator (or good ones at any rate) should understand is that, ultimately, what people are really interested in is themselves. The goal of any communicator is to help employees make the link between themselves and the company they work for (and, if applicable, the parent company too). This has to be done in a series of steps and gradual connections, leading from me to my team, my department, my location, then finally my company.

IC looks to provide credibility through believable messages (there's no point telling people everything is great when you're laying people off), consistency (you don't want your chief executive and MD saying different things), cohesion (linking messages to increase the overall impact), and coherence (telling a story in a way that people can relate to).

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OK, That's All Very Nice, But What Do You Actually Do?
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In short I:
Write, edit and act as photographer for an employee magazine that's distributed to around 3000 people every two months, managing its design and production.

Organise around 10 conferences a year, for a variety of different audiences, managing the production team (who are external), the senior team who have to present information, booking venues and speakers, arranging invitations and logistics, making sure it all runs smoothly on the day. For an idea of timescales, I started planning a conference due to be held in November in January.

Manage the company face to face briefing process, providing relevent information at the right time (monthly) to the right people (managers who will cascade it to their teams).

Co-ordinate employee feedback, including a large annual opinion survey that's produced by a specialist company on our behalf, focus groups to gather more detail on feedback in particular areas and so on.

Produce videos around 3 or 4 times a year, designed to get a particular message to all employees or particular groups of them.
Introduce and run national recognition schemes, to recognise employees who are doing a particularly good job.

Measure how communication is working within the company, how it can be improved and where the gaps are (for example, is material being distributed so that it gets to the right people, and if so are they remembering the key messages?)

Support the MD and his team to increase their profiles and make sure that they are better known within the organisation.

Retain overall responsibility for the intranet and facilitate its management within the business areas and departments.

Manage the issuing of electronic messages that go to all employees (and deny those people who want to put a message out to, for example, whine about someone else being in their carpark space...).

Manage a team of people to help me achieve all of the above.

Come up with ideas for improving all of the above, or new communication channels to introduce and use!

IC in every organisation is different. I have been involved with business TV channels and employee radio channels in former jobs, there are things I do in this job that I haven't before. IC channels are always evolving, and experienced IC practitioners are always looking for ways to do things better. At the end of the day, what we do directly affects perceptions of our organisation and, indirectly, how much profit that organisation makes.

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Further Information:
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All the below are books unless I've said otherwise.

Communicating Corporate Change - Bill Quirke
Making the Connections - Bill Quirke
Strategic Communication Management - journal published by Melcrum
Communicating Change: Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals - Larkin and Larkin. There's a summary of this book available here: http://www.larkin.biz/documents/Communication_Change_report.pdf
Understanding Organizations - Charles Handy

Or, leave a message in my GB and I'll try and answer any questions.

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Comments on this review

  • josarah published 06/05/2004
    Finally, I get to find out what you do for a living!!! Jo
  • Pumpkin published 17/03/2004
    I know all about this, as I am responsible for communicating and measuring the internal brand values at my company and I work very closely with the IC officer! Hannah
  • elkiedee published 11/03/2004
    Sounds like an interesting job - I'm a very part time publicity officer for my union branch. Luci
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Product Information : Internal Communications

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Ciao

Listed on Ciao since: 04/03/2004