Internal Communications

by Val Lawson

Raising the profile of internal communications

If you have been tasked with improving internal communications or have seen a need in your organisation and want to raise awareness and support, this section sets out an approach. However, if your organisation already has a communications manager, policy and procedures, this will give you an insight into the world of the communications person.

Understand your business

If you want to improve internal communications in your organisation, first spend a week focusing on improving your understanding of the business. Talk to the people that run your business; read the business strategy and operational plan, and talk to people in Operations and Finance. Find out how your business really works: how do you make money (and lose it); what drives cost; which markets are you in, and who are your competitors?

Make it your task to know as much about the business as the Managing Director. Find out what’s on their agenda; what they worry about, and where their focus is. Then start talking about those issues, offering solutions and options.

Listen to your internal customers

Talk to other people in the organisation and really listen to what they are saying. This includes

  • People who deal directly with customers
  • What do they see going on?
  • What’s the market like at the moment?
  • What are competitors doing?
  • Customers
  • Phone them up or stop them in the aisle
  • Ask them what they like and don’t like
  • Middle managers/supervisors
  • What operational pressures and difficulties do they face?
  • What strategic initiatives are they tackling?
  • Senior managers
  • See them after you’ve understood the business and amaze them with your strategic insight
  • Really listen to what senior managers care and worry about
  • Remember the words they use – and play them back later

Be business oriented

Communication is a means to achieve improved business performance, so don’t hide behind jargon. Talk about the attitudes and behaviours your communication will create, and about increased knowledge of the product range, cross-selling statistics and higher customer satisfaction. Mention benefits that have been realised since your new communication initiative began. An example might be that absenteeism is down.

Talk about financial benefits

The return on investment in communications is best demonstrated by asking ‘what’s the cost of not doing it?’

Consider the cost to your organisation of poor quality goods or services, or of high levels of absenteeism. Estimate the value of lost business because of poor cross-selling. While you can’t prove that an investment in communications will make a difference, you can demonstrate how it might be an integral part of a solution to a business need that the company is focused on.

Ask for explicit board support

Talk to the board about successes and business issues, not the latest corporate video. Ask for their continued blessing for what you are doing.

  • If you want documents to be signed off within 24 hours, say so.
  • If you want to be involved in the planning of business change, say so.
  • If you want the directors to spend a day working on the factory floor, say so.

Be professional in what you do

  • Know about the business.
  • Be credible as a business person.
  • Create a partnership with operational managers to solve business problems.
  • Provide solutions, not issues.
  • Deliver what you say you will, when you say you will.
  • Present everything properly – no gaps, no typos, no poor layouts.
  • Be accessible, cooperative and fun to be with.

Use technology to help you

You have to understand

  • How technology will affect communication (e-mail, intranets, extranets)
  • How it will affect work (virtual teams, home working, case working).

Make friends with an IT person and, with any luck, you’ll be on the inside track concerning IT developments, which will enable you to manage technology, not have it imposed on you.