This was my first real go at internal communications. Making sure posters in the business reflected the brand accurately. Woe betide anyone that didn’t create a perfect interpretation of the brand guidelines. It turns out, there’s a bit more to internal communications than just posters.
A properly functioning comms team moves in a cycle like this.
To properly engage the people in a business there are a few things that need to be understood. The first are the goals of the business. People are employed by a business to deliver the goals it signs up to. There is no interpretation here. Every business has a commercial agenda, be that delivering sales targets, or helping a set number of people. Companies, charities, non-profits, multinational conglomerates. Even a social enterprise like a group of friends going on holiday has a pre-agreed agenda they must deliver, albeit in a more informal sense.
The next level of understanding needs to come from the people who will deliver the objectives. The employees. Finding out what they get up for, what their collective understanding of any existing strategy is crucial in forming the next one, even if that remains broadly unchanged.
Build a strategy
Once you know fully who the strategy is for and what has to be achieved you can make a start on building one. This isn’t the logo stage, this is the core message, business wide measurable targets, the organisation of the people to deliver them and a timeline. It also includes a vision of what success looks like. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this stage is a complete re-write. Sure enough, it could be. But it can also be tweaking, refining and recoloring. Defining a strategy doesn’t have to be sweeping reform, it could be slight amends that help stay aligned to shifting company goals.
Tell a story
The part of communications that most people associate with us. The story. Words, pictures, videos, stages, print-outs and workshops The tangible part of our work that looks the most glamorous but has limited impact. Think of a building, all the foundations have been built, the structure is already there, huge steel girders hang across vast spaces supported by concrete pillars. The story is the rendered wall and polished floor. It’s the bit that helps people interact with and understand a building. In a strategy it’s no different. It’s the heat-conductor between strategy data and the people getting on with it.
Create and adapt tools
Once people understand the strategy through good storytelling, they need tools to work towards the problem. This is where technology steps in. Years before this would have been pen, branded paper and meeting rooms, but we’ve got a whole host of collaboration tools and systems we can offer people. Existing tools need to be adapted to make sure they’re fit for purpose. In practical terms think of performance management documents and rewards and recognition. Not just the tools to do your job need to be re-thought, but the tools to help people do their job – the HR stuff.
Show and teach
With tools in hand they need to know how to use them. This is where people managers step in. With this important group of people on board the tools you’ve built become invaluable in helping employees work together to deliver objectives. Without this crucial part of the wheel, the best tools in the world can’t build a single thing.
Ask and listen
Measurement. Measuring is so important,but do it frequently or don’t bother. Imagine having a large portfolio of stocks and shares, but only finding out once a year how much they were worth. You’d find a new broker pretty sharpish, so why then do we put up with a single annual survey to find out how employees see an organisation. Little and often is the way to learn, that applies to four-year-olds, learning an instrument, or refining a company strategy. Little and often is the best way to take a regular temperature of a workforce. It always allows you to fail fast – if something’s not working work quickly to solve it, not a year until it’s forgotten.