I was flicking through the IC Kollectif's excellent report last week and, among many others there was one thing that really struck me. One of the people they interviewed talked about internal comms teams needing to be 'commercial first and a communicator second'
It’s a brush that internal comms teams can often be tarred with. The idea that they’re just pushing out nice, fluffy messages to everyone with no real thought to why they’re doing it or the impact it will have on the business.
And you also often hear a lot of noise about IC ‘not being taken seriously’ or ‘not having a seat at the top table’ (both of which I agree with BTW). However, getting to those heights of being a trusted advisor, where IC teams can really show the impact they can have will mean thinking a bit differently.
Key to success isn’t sending out every mail that comes in, publishing every intranet article and running every event.
The true success of Internal Comms teams is measured by outcomes, not by outputs.
The million dollar question is 'What’s the outcome my business wants to achieve and how will our internal comms programme support that?'
When you've worked out the answer, think about how you can tell the story of that success.
It can be a bit ‘cobblers children’ when it comes to selling internal communications internally. Oftentimes teams aren’t great at it and that undermines the very important role they can play in helping their companies to deliver on their objectives.
So how can you start to look more credible by focusing on outcomes and not outputs?
For me, it’s about being a bit harder and a bit more commercial (I knew we’d get back to that IC Kollectif report eventually!)
1. Link and label - Tie everything you do back to company strategy and the overall objectives of the business. In the beginning you'll need to make those links really, REALLY obvious.
2. Look for hard stats - Thee days businesses collect a lot of data - levels of sick leave, staff turnover, individuals' performance, sales data etc. So find out who owns that data and start to cross reference it with data from your staff survey and specific comms campaigns. In doing so you can start to say things like, ‘In teams with higher levels of engagement, staff turnover was reduced by 18%’ or ‘When we ran a new mortgage campaign in the SouthEast region, mortgage sales increased by 8% based on this quarter last year.’
NOW you’re showing your true value.
3. Say no sometimes - It’s not the job of internal comms to simply publish any old story that our colleagues send in. Sometimes you need to play the role of advisor and say no (and maybe it’s a 'no but'). Perhaps the message isn’t targeted enough, well enough written or tied back to strategy? Or perhaps it’s a repeat of last week’s message (which everyone ignored) and the boss wants to send it again. Either way, unless it aligns with you driving an outcome, you need to think about whether it's the right thing to do or not.
So think about how you can perhaps re-position the impact that your internal communications effort is having on the organisation by focusing not on what you do but on what it helps to achieve.
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