Roll up, roll up… the results are in!
Newsweaver, together with Ragan Communications, recently completed a state-of-the-sector survey to understand what’s happening in the world of IC in 2016. The results reveal some fascinating insights so stay tuned here for our Inside IC series over the coming month. Inside IC is the definitive, bi-annual internal communications survey.
Newton’s Third Law tells us that ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. This is not necessarily the case for all internal communicators as many Inside IC survey respondents report that they spend the majority of their time reacting to ad-hoc requests rather than working on strategically planned campaigns.
60% of communicators said they were not involved in strategic decision-making early enough to make an impact. However only one in three IC functions has a long-term strategy in place. It stands to reason that, while IC functions do not have a formalized strategy in place, they may continue to get called in at the last minute without prior consultation.
When things don’t change the result will always stay the same (hat-tip to the great Albert Einstein).
To become more involved in exec-level decision making, these IC functions need to be viewed as a strategic partner. But what does that actually mean?
There are 3 simple ways to become more strategically positioned, all of which are easily achieved:
- To break the cycle of being perceived as a reactive function, internal communicators should prepare an annual plan that articulates its planned campaigns, expected outcomes and its contribution towards overall corporate strategy. This plan should be presented to leadership and reported on regularly. This is a great way to ensure that deliverables are delivered, as well as serving to boost the profile of the function
- By supporting corporate strategy, the perception of IC will naturally move from that of a support function to that of a value-adding resource. This will, in time, result in IC being involved from an earlier stage in decision-making relating to corporate communications
“The business moves way, way too fast for annual objectives and long-term strategic plans”
2. Adopt best practice content
- Many organizations provide first class resources and content for their external audiences. But they may not invest the same time or energy into internal content. The definition of ‘quality’ content is closely tied to the intended audience – BuzzFeed’s editorial formats work perfectly well for a Millennial audience but would not be considered quality in the eyes of a Baby Boomer.
- IC needs to produce content that matches the interests and profile of the readers. The cost of this is merely the necessary investment of time to develop employee reader personas (i.e. understand what they are interested in, how they consume content, when they consume content, etc), in the same way that buyer personas are common in the marketing world.
- Communicating through the appropriate channel is critical to the success of internal communications. The survey revealed that 72% of respondents are not currently using mobile as part of their IC channel strategy, surprising given the increasing prevalence of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. Communicators need to distribute content that gets read – mobile-optimized content (through email and intranet) is a simple but effective way to speak with a mobile-literate workforce.
“We take a very tactical approach to internal communications”
- If you bump into the CEO in the elevator and he asks how your last campaign went, what do you tell him? Do you reply that it went well or do you produce data to show exactly how well it went? Execs love data and, in fact, they expect it.
- The survey showed that 93% of respondents acknowledge the importance of measurement but only a fraction of that are actively practicing the discipline.
“We know what to measure. But truly identifying changes and tying them back to any specific campaign is very difficult”
There’s some commonality in the reasons why communicators aren’t doing some, or all, of the above. And lots of this comes down to time. When we are so busy churning out work and meeting deadlines, how can we claim back enough time to draft, socialize and implement a strategy? 75% of departments actually spent more time on content preparation and approval (#2 above) than any other activity. There needs to be a more even spread – by investing more energy into campaign planning and measurement (i.e. #1 and #3 above), better outcomes can be achieved.
70% of departments do not expect their annual budget to rise in the near-term future. If communicators are successful in elevating their internal profile then they will be in a stronger position to negotiate bigger budgets.
With bigger budgets comes bigger possibilities.
That’s the goal and that’s what will shift the balance from reaction to action.