November 1, 2013 ↘︎

3 things your internal communications strategy may be lacking.

We’re helping a client at the moment with their internal communications strategy and one of the things that struck me was the ongoing challenge of gaining engagement and feedback from staff – an issue that spans industries. 

While staff newsletters or blogs spearheaded at the executive level do a great job of telling staff what changes are happening at the board or who’s doing the annual fun-run, they generally do a downright awful job of tapping into the undercurrent of what is really happening within an organisation.

1. Focus on engagement – not on ‘broadcast’.

Internal communications should be a meeting place for staff to share real thoughts about the organisation they work at and feel comfortable. If your entire internal communication strategy hinges around the CEO’s blog you’re not going to see large returns in the form of comments or shares.

It’s far more likely that staff are sharing their views and opinions freely around the watercooler, rather than within a confrontational forum such as a blog. By giving staff more opportunities to engage via smaller wins like polls (which are not only quick and easy to complete, but anonymous) you’re far more likely to get the feedback you’re after.

“A person like yourself is now trusted nearly twice as much as a chief executive or government official. The hierarchies of old are being replaced by more trusted peer-to-peer, horizontal networks of trust.”

– 2013 Elderman Trust Barometer.

Although your CEO should always have a voice they’re not always the best person to spearhead internal communications for the purpose of engagement. There’s always a few people within an organisation that people naturally migrate to for answers.  Leverage those ‘unofficial’ experts and reward them for their efforts.

2. Start small, moderate well.

If you are serious about building an internal communications hub that is a truly useful and trusted resource for your staff they must be made to feel comfortable to share anxieties and have the expectation that those anxieties will clarified too.  How that looks in the digital environment may very well be an active, peer-to-peer online community that focuses on engagement.  

If you are concerned about the current mood of your organisation then start small and have a great moderator on your side.  The sign of a truly great moderation strategy is an online community that isn’t aware that it’s being moderated at all.  The important thing is to allow any real issues to bubble to the surface and show that those issues are being taken seriously.

3. Segment your strategy.

There will always be a range of different objectives for internal communications – ranging from having a space where ‘formal’ messages can be broadcast, to giving staff a platform for the type of office banter that will draw staff back to check what changes have been made to the cafeteria menu. 

Segmenting your strategy and using different tools to deliver on them such as polls, blogs, forums, knowledge-base, community Q&A and gamefication can be an effective – and manageable – approach. 

Helping staff help each other through peer-to-peer support.

31% of Australian consumers are active ‘critics’ online (including contributing to online forums), with an overwhelming 64% being ‘spectators’ (including reading online forums and blogs) – Forrester Research’s Consumer Technographics).  People are now far more comfortable getting what they need from each other rather than official channels – further proven by many big australian brands launching their own online communities for peer-to-peer customer support.  

Assuming your staff aren’t ready for a more empowering mode of communications could be why your internal communications is failing.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on November 1, 2013.
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