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An open letter to Internal Communicators everywhere

An open letter to Internal Communicators everywhere

Jonathan Davies


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6 mins read

Fri, Mar 20, '20  

“Yes, these measures may seem like an overreaction. But if it helps save even one person’s life, it’s worth it.”

Two weeks ago, our CPO, Antero Hanhirova and CEO, Perttu Ojansuu, ended our company-wide meeting on this note. It was preceded by a list of elaborate measures that we wanted to take to do our part in containing the spread of COVID-19. Our policy required us to ask visitors if they recently visited COVID-19 hotspots, or had come in touch with anyone who had. We also doubled-up on paper towels, hand sanitizers, cleaning duties and more. One of the most impactful things was that all business travels were curbed. Curbed when, just a week before, I was standing in a room full of people at Google’s office, talking about the future of Internal Comms. Even though I saw the logic in it, I thought it was an overreaction. The idea of indirectly saving lives got me on board in a heartbeat though. I have no doubt that many of you put the same measures in place, or felt the same way. 

But now? Now it seems like an underreaction. Just two weeks later, and many of you are in countries that are quarantining, locked down, have travel restrictions or well, any and all of the above. Life changed dramatically, seemingly in the blink of an eye. And you, the Internal Communicators, are once again scrambling to make sure your company communicates about this effectively. At the last moment. 

It’s something that I’ve reported on frequently – Internal Comms gets roped in at the last moment to take care of almost everything. An emergency town hall. A new remote-working policy. Entire intranet pages dedicated to the developments around COVID-19, and you must be spending a lot of your time source-checking all the different streams of information about the virus from within your company. And that’s just the tip of the last-minute iceberg. But of course, this case is different. Businesses could barely plan for this. They’re depending on an ability that you’ve forcibly mastered over the years: to adapt to impactful change at the last moment, and communicate this with clarity, heart and resilience. That’s why, Internal Communicators, this letter is to you. My hat goes off to you. 

Some companies are doing a last-minute adaption to keep their business going, from the homes of their people. Others, notably airline companies, are forced to reduce capacity. In some cases, jobs are lost. In others, work time is reduced. This is incredibly tough on the people affected by those measures. It’s also tough on those whose job security remains unaffected. Their work-life balance is thrown into a gauntlet. Because of school closures, parents now have to juggle taking care of their kid while working in a place that was traditionally meant as a safe haven – a place to wind down after putting your heart and soul into a job that, hopefully, they love. And this, Internal Communicators, is what many of you have been addressing in your communications. You’ve not just been looking at the big-picture, policy changes. You’ve also been looking at how it affects your people. You’ve been telling their stories. You’ve been helping them feel like they’re in it together. 

At Happeo, we’ve been doing what we can to push Internal Comms forward. To help it get the credibility it deserves. On that note, some have called this situation an opportunity. I think we shouldn’t look at it that way. No matter how numbers-driven we become, Internal Communicators are people persons. You want to do right by the people in your organization, so let’s focus on that. Increased credibility is just an end result. When our leadership team communicated our initial COVID-19 policy, it was the personal angle that got me to immediately drop any resistance to change. So let’s make sure we stay personal. 

You, right now, are the bridge between the business and its people. You’re helping those whose jobs are affected to cope with the situation. You’re helping the business survive. Never underestimate just how important you are right now. Internal Communicators, you have my admiration. Thank you.

On behalf of Happeo,

Jonathan Davies
Internal Communications Journalist

P.S: If there’s anything my team and I can do to help, please reach out to me. We are working hard to provide content that will help your business in this situation. We also have an online "fireside chat" coming up on the 16th of April, together with Jason Anthoine and Andrea Greenhous, where we’ll talk about what we’ve learned from the communications around COVID-19.