I’m starting a new series where I will sit down with internal communications experts to get their thoughts on the state of our industry, challenges we are facing – and what they think are essential in order to face the challenges.
Here are some interesting insights from my first guest, Marc Wright, publisher of simply-communicate.com:
What was your path to working in internal communications?
I started my career making science documentaries for television. Although I read English at University, the theory was that if I could understand the subject then a TV audience probably could as well. But one weekend I moonlighted on a job in corporate communications and I was hooked. I returned to TV later in my career to do a couple of series for BBC2 but it was like dropping a video tape down a well – sometimes you heard a ripple, but often there was no reaction at all. What attracts me to internal communications is you usually get to see the results of what you are doing – for good or ill!
What are the biggest challenges internal communicators face right now?
The trouble about our job is that everyone thinks that they are a professional communicator – I mean we can all talk and write – and we always prefer our voice to those of our colleagues. So being an internal communicator can often mean doing the stuff that others don’t want to do: putting up reams of information on the intranet that no one in their right mind would ever read, or writing a funny limerick for Sally’s retirement card. My advice is to be firm and say “no” – being an internal communicator means sometimes refusing to communicate pointless verbiage. Remember that if you never say “No” then your “Yes” has no value.
What are the skills you think an internal communicator needs to successfully implement an IC strategy?
My advice is to be passionate about connecting people to new ideas. Be a good listener, always think of your audience when you give advice – and have the hide of a rhinoceros as people always try to shoot the messenger when they don’t like the message. Any task you are given always think PACK: Purpose (why are we communicating this?) Audience (who do we need to get to?) Channel (what’s the best way to get to them) and Key message (boil it down to what you want people to do differently).
Your internal communications strategy must start with your business strategy. The trouble is, few businesses are able to describe their real business strategy overtly. So how do you marry your communication plan to a business plan, if no one above you can tell you what it really is? Don’t let this be a frustration to you; very few businesses have a CEO with a clearly articulated vision. But if you look hard enough every business does have a covert, unexpressed business strategy and it does not take rocket science to discover it. To do so, ask yourself:
- Where is your company spending the big bucks?
- What type of attitude gets rewarded and promoted?
- What keeps the CEO awake at night?
Creating a communication strategy is all about making the covert, unexpressed business strategy open and engaging for your staff and colleagues.
What is your personal view of the place of social media in the large enterprise?
The arrival of social media inside organisations is going to have just as big an effect on the way we work as Facebook, Tripadvisor and Twitter have had on the way we live. That’s why we at simply are hosting the third SMILE event on 23rd of September – it stands for Social Media In the Large Enterprise. These new channels represent the greatest challenge – and opportunity – facing our profession, and they are rewriting the rule book on internal communications. As a professional you have to understand and be able to advise on these new tools or you risk becoming irrelevant.
To follow the event on Twitter, use #smwSMILE