It’s been one of those weeks where your head is stuck on “delivery-mode”. But I’ve still had time to think about and enjoy some interesting things this week.
1. The art of Internal Comms
This week I’ve been working with a client on producing a regular piece of internal comms, and having some discussions about engaging staff about an upcoming period of change.
Internal comms is a really interesting aspect of our work as communicators, and it’s an area that I’ve been looking at from a very different perspective since I became a freelancer.
“Internal Comms” at Grey Fox Communications and Marketing Ltd basically consists of me putting work and appointments in my diary, and sometimes asking Siri to remind me to leave the house on time.
I don’t (have to) worry about staff engagement, or “talking colleagues on a journey” or nice ideas like “morale and motivation”. It’s just me. So if I don’t have adequate morale, motivation, and if I don’t have a clear sense of mission, then my business will fail. It’s that simple. It’s that brutal.
But prior to the last four months, it wasn’t quite that simple. Over the past 14 years in particular, I’ve worked mostly in large organisations with large, often disparate workforces, challenges on multiple fronts, and unique (sometimes unhelpful) cultures. And in each one, I’ve been asked to help out with staff engagement and internal comms.
Internal comms in particular seems to finally be getting the recognition and being given the importance that it deserves, after many years as the poorer, less attractive sibling of external comms.
Note the comms focused session at this year’s NHS Expo is a great example of the importance with which this discipline is being given these days.
But why so?
Well for me, it’s one big reason: the never ending march of organisational change.
We live in turbulent times (understatement of the century there, perhaps), and whatever organisation you work for you’ll have experienced choppy waters recently, or will do soon.
The business world has never been more volatile, the public sector has been undergoing a decade long dose of electro-shock therapy; and there are some huge, almost too huge to contemplate challenges for the way we as a society earn a living.
Artificial Intelligence, globalisation, the gig economy, climate change, obsolescence of long established professions and industries, various public-health related time-bombs: all of these things are making our working lives less certain and more insecure.
But here’s the thing:
All of these challenges are what make our work even more vital. The public has never needed public services more. The economy has never needed a strong private sector than now. And communities, as we go into a period of unprecedented turbulence are relying on us.
We need our public and our stakeholders to trust us to deliver for them in challenging times. And to do that we need clarity of purpose, motivation and a clear story to tell.
But how different to external comms is internal comms?
Well definitely there are certain particular principles that need to be covered off to be successful. A post I wrote back in my in-house days on The 4 essential steps of good internal comms and staff engagement is a good reminder in this respect - and based on the 4 enablers of the much quoted Engage for Success framework.
And, I’d say, if you follow this pattern, you can’t go far wrong. The brilliant presentation by Rachel Miller of AllThingsIC at LGComms Academy (you have to log in using the credentials on the page to see it) expanded on this a bit and brought these ideas very much into the here and now.
But, for me, the fundamentals are the same.
You still have an objective. You still have an audience with particular circumstances and barriers to engagement. You still have messages. You still have comms channels. You’re still called upon to bring all these things together with flair and creativity.
This is the same whatever communicating you’re doing. Yes, the situational differences are unique for each organisation. But, again, this is true for whatever audience you’re looking to engage with for any project. You have to know your audience, their hopes, fears, motivators and barriers.
So, in my view, if you can do external comms; you can do internal comms. The difference is in the level of priority your organisation places on it, and how much time and capacity you’re given to work on it effectively.
In what seems like long overdue development, organisations are rightly placing a premium on internal comms. After all, if we’re going to help our communities to navigate an uncertain, scary future successfully, whilst navigating it ourselves, we’re going to need to stick together and speak with a confident, singular purpose.
2. EdTech work
I’m loving the work I’m doing with a business in Educational Technology at the moment.
There are some seriously amazing people in this space, being really innovative and using apps and AI to connect kids of all ages from right across the world, to learn, have fun and to be better citizens.
As I’m reading (sorry, “listening to”) in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Audiobook by Yuval Noah Harari, disruptive digital technology is one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces, and one of the biggest opportunities to live safer more enriching lives that we’ve seen in centuries.
So it’s a real privilege to be working in this space; as we prepare today’s children to better navigate that uncertain future I was just talking about….
3. Blog post of the week
What is a Hackathon and how can we use it in internal communication? is a great read.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have been bored rigid over the years by attending “workshops” that consist of listening to speeches and powerpoint presentations, with about 5 minutes at the end for “Questions and Answers”.
I’ve always loved hacks and Unconferences as a more informal, but far more collaborative way of working. I find them a great leveller as you have interns working directly alongside CEOs to develop solutions to big issues, with the outcomes being more creative, and co-created ideas.
So if you’re looking for a more engaging, and fun way of bringing your team or organisation together to come up with solutions together, give this ace post a thorough read.
4. Podcast of the week
Well for once, I have a long queue of new podcasts waiting to be listened to.
I’ve been far too engrossed in the afforementioned 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Audiobook though this week.
Sorry. Normal service resumed when it stops being so damn engrossing…