Congratulations! If you’re reading this post you probably just started a new Internal Comms role at a new company. Or maybe you switched roles, and now you’re doing Internal Comms. Regardless, you have a bit of a road ahead. You need to reach the minotaur in the middle of your organizational labyrinth. The good news? These days, we have Google Maps :) To help you on your way, here are the 6 things that will get you to kick butt in your new role. Enjoy!
Jump to any of the steps by clicking on the links below:
Mike Klein, principal at Changing the Terms says “the first thing you’ll want to do is talk to a dozen or so people. The rest will follow naturally”. So let’s start there.
Organizations can’t engage or create alignment from the top-down, without understanding what’s happening from the bottom-up. Find out what people across ages, departments - and if possible, locations - are saying about the organization. What do they love? What do they want to change? What do they know a lot about and what company knowledge do they find lacking? How well do teams or departments communicate with each other? This, and more, will help you gain an impression of what the organization’s actual internal identity is.
Bonus points if you want to supplement this with a quantitative research method such as surveys, but do prepare this in advance. Sending a questionnaire across (a large part of) an organization will probably require some stakeholder approval.
Step 2. Understand the organization
The information you gather from employees serves as fuel for questions to leadership. Yes, it may all start with a mission, vision and core values, but different departments will be aligned with this in different ways. Leaders are still the most trusted source of communication to employees, so understanding what they communicate is key to understanding where your challenge really lies.
Step 3. Set clear strategic Internal Comms objectives
When you’ve found the patterns between what employees are saying and what the organization is saying it needs from Internal Comms, then can you start forming objectives. Yes, they need to adhere to the bog-standard SMART definition, we won’t bore you with that explanation. We do want to emphasize that measurable objectives are your friend, not your enemy. They help you show progress, but more importantly, they also help you prioritize. Get sign-off from leadership on those objectives, and you gain a strong tool to prioritize your work with. You’ll have a much easier time saying “No” the next time Johnny from Sales wants you to proofread his internal presentation.
Step 4. Create internal persona profiles
"With personas, less is more.” Dan Williams, UX Design Lead at Enreach starts. “Be sure to sample multiple diverse people from different "departments" ... and then forget about their job and department. Instead, focus on their core working styles. You’re not looking to define a vertical job role, but gain insights into the horizontal measures that bind or differentiate a group. These can be hard or soft, quantitative or qualitative, in written form or visual – all to enrich the context of use and ultimately empathize with your users. The last thing you want is a persona-per-department.”
Williams’ point around personas is something that needs to be heard. It’s crucial to form a templated understanding of your target audience, but don’t over-do it. “Employees” may not be a target group, but there is a healthy balance between too much and not enough. Read this article for the basics of what a persona profile should include. Then add the 6 things Dan says are essential to a good persona profile:
A photo. Your persona profile can only come alive if the reader can empathize with it.
A name for your persona. This makes it easy to refer to.
A descriptive group name. Instead of “The Geeks”, use “Analytical Developers”.
Consistent metrics/layout. If you’re using charts to show how much a persona values an aspect on a scale of 1-10, make sure those same charts are included in other profiles. Same for the layout. As Edward Tufte, father of information design said, “Emphasize changes in data, not changes in design”.
Share them. These are not just for you, but for the entire company to align on terminology and person. Don’t just share them on your social intranet, digital workplace, community-power employee communications platform – whichever digital format you use. Print them and hang them (or shove them!) near the noses of people that are internal influencers. It makes them more tangible.
Update them. You products, services, teams and customers change. Maybe your entire company’s direction changes. Keep interviewing and refining these profiles, they are not static assets.
Step 5. Develop a tactical Internal Communications plan
It’s a bit too much to list here, but let’s just say there’s an easier way to organize which messages you’re sending, across which channels, and for which specific goals that you set in point 3. Fill out the funnel below and you should be well on your way!
“Having business acumen as an Internal Communications specialist will put you leaps and bounds ahead of any other communicator out there because you can talk the language and add value. That’s a skill some IC people don’t really consider they need, but if you’re writing comms you need to understand what the business is about.”
Bonus: Get to know more layers of leadership
Leadership aren’t just stakeholders in your activities. They’re also an important channel for Internal Communications. We referenced Gatehouse’s State of the Sector report before, and it shows that employees still consider their direct leader as the most credible source of information in a company. In North-America, high-level leadership visibility is valued the most. In Europe it’s line-management.
We already spoke of “leadership” in point 1, but don’t forget line managers with that. Getting them on your side has been a battle that Internal Comms has been waging for years, but when you’re fresh, new and a blank slate, you may be able to gain the upper hand early.