Katie Marlow answers 10 questions from her Poppulo webinar
Katie Marlow responds to questions from her recent Poppulo webinar – IC’s role in Corporate Communications today: meeting the challenge of tumultuous times.
This followed the publication of our white paper: The Changing Role of Internal Communications in Corporate Communications, also written by Katie.
KM: Thanks for joining me on the webinar for Poppulo. As we couldn’t cover all of your questions, we promised to post some answer here in this blog post.
1. Do you believe corporate comms should be investing in in-house learning to bolster employee skillsets?
KM: All organizations and corporate communications teams are different and their budgets, skills, and teams will determine how much support they can provide the business, and employees across the business, to up their communication skill sets.
However, I’ve found that even the most cash-strapped departments can find time to spend with people in the business who are keen to get involved in communications and learn how to do it well.
I’ve run small workshops for teams and groups of ‘comms champions’ in different businesses to help them establish the tone of voice, style, delivery, planning, and creation of their content.
This reaps dividends for the corporate comms team who will spend less time creating, proofing and editing content that can be managed by others in the business.
Now we can see more and more communications professionals coaching leaders, supporting them to communicate in ways to suit their style and their employees.
Everyone communicates, we can help those who want and need to be better at it.
2. Please, can you repeat the websites referred to that are useful for drilling down into specific topics?
KM: Quora and Kailo. We talked about having a wider perspective and worldview beyond our own ideas and principles. This can help us understand the people we are communicating with and their perspectives.
I recommended these two sites to help with seeing different perspectives around topics.
kialo.com is a new debating site, which is described as ‘an easy to use, yet powerful tool to engage in thoughtful discussion, understand different points of view, and help with collaborative decision-making’.
quora.com is a platform where people post questions and answers. Its description states ‘We want to connect the people who have the knowledge to the people who need it, to bring together people with different perspectives so they can understand each other better, and to empower everyone to share their knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the world.’
3. What’s your experience with a varied workforce that doesn’t have tech, don’t read emails or complete surveys, and where it’s difficult to get them out of their day job for focus groups or f2f chats.
KM: I’ve worked both in-house in the public sector and as a consultant to private sector clients with many remote workers doing jobs that don’t use tech as part of their work. It takes time and dedication to connect with remote teams.
Spending time with them while they do their work, joining them on their breaks etc will help you build relationships, understanding of their communication needs and what’s stopping them from engaging.
By doing this I’ve discovered situations such as: where a PC in an off-site workshop sat unused because the team leader didn’t want the team to use it because he thought they’d be ‘wasting time’; where emails sent to remote workers were not read because the server deleted any unread emails after two days…
Yes, these situations are real and as communication professionals, we need to find ways to navigate these challenges and hurdles. If they don’t have tech, try traditional methods or a way they can access on their own devices.
If they don’t like surveys and they are hard to reach or engage within the more formal face to face meetings, go and see them and talk to them, show them you’re interested in their work and build a relationship.
4. I’m Interested in strategies and tactics that work to (generally) engage and inspire non-desk employees.
KM: This is a very broad topic, and without knowing more about the employees, the organization and the challenge it’s tricky to provide inspiring ideas to help.
There’s no quick fix one-size fits all, but I would start by taking time to go to them where they work, to speak with them and find out what they like and dislike about their work and the organisation, what communication method works for them and then you’ll no doubt find some creative solutions to help you reach them with your communications.
5. I will be running a training session with managers about how they can use stakeholder mapping to be more effective with their communicating in their teams and projects they run. What key point would you recommend I cover?
KM: I would always start with understanding your employees and mapping them accordingly.
You want to know their level of interest and level of influence and that will guide your communication approach with different groups. How you do this will depend on the size and shape of the employee population.
If you only have limited time with the managers, give them the tools to use when they are doing this on their own.
This needs to make their work easier.
6. Is the AMEC interactive measurement framework you mentioned free to use?
KM: Yes it is, you can access it here.
7. Thank you, Katie. Really useful. What’s been the proudest campaign you’ve worked on and what was the outcome?
KM: Thank you. It’s not always the big shiny projects that are the most rewarding or those I’m most proud of.
I am lucky that I love what I do and that’s all about helping workplaces work better, which doesn’t often involve me ‘delivering the campaigns’, I support the in-house teams to do that with audits, research, planning, strategy, and workshops.
A recent example that I’m proud of, was running workshops to support a communications team take control of their work and role within a complex organization where they had been neglected, undervalued and were starting to believe the narrative.
Helping that team to manage their growing workloads more effectively, see their own potential and the difference they can and do make has been brilliant. They are a growing team, with individuals who are growing in confidence and ambition.
8. Engaging stakeholders and employees is a really big challenge for all organizations. Could you share a successful case?
KM: This is a very broad topic and there are many examples of organizations using different strategies to successfully engage with their employees, I don’t have a specific case study that I can share to answer this question.
So, I would recommend looking at the Engage for Success framework of engagement as a starting point, there are case studies on their site too.
Like all of our communication work, we need to understand the employee population first and foremost and have a clear strategy in support of employee engagement.
9. How can you get your employees to participate in the IC strategy without creating a hostile environment for the company and prevent it from becoming a complaint book?
KM: Organisations comprise people with all kinds of perspectives. Some people will be happy to engage and others will not.
Start by involving people in the design of your IC strategy. If they’re involved from the start they’ll be more likely to support it throughout.
It will be those who are happy to engage who will sign up to get involved at first, others may follow, especially if the first joiners report having had a good time when they got involved.
Be engaging, invite input, collaborate, listen and adapt to what you learn from the employees who do engage.
There will often be detractors and the best policy is to listen to their complaints, escalate them where you need to, learn from them and adapt where it’s appropriate and show them that you are.
If behavior becomes hostile or escalates you may need to take different courses of action – and that will depend on the behavior. I would seek advice from your HR team.
Your use of the word ‘hostile’ and ‘complaint book’ suggests you’ve possibly tried this before and had a bad experience. Perhaps the business culture is not a trusting or open working environment and hence the aggression you may have faced when trying to engage in the past.
In which case, I would review that past experience thoroughly before trying again. It’s important to understand why it didn’t work, what’s causing the complaints and who can help resolve the wider business issues if they exist before going back in for another attempt.
10. I would like to know more about advocacy tools and how improve it?
KM: There is a range of tech tools available to aid advocacy – from LinkedIn Elevate to Hootsuite Amplify and many more.
What works for you will depend on your organization, people and the work they do.
But regardless of tools, people will be more likely to advocate for the organization if they truly believe in it and they’ll share your content and more when it chimes with their beliefs about the organization and their work.
Like every piece of the internal communication and employee engagement puzzle, you need to put the people in the business first.
You’ll need to understand what will work for them, where they are working and what they need to share beyond the organization and how that can support them too – as individuals and for their work.
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need to have a clear and distinct employee advocacy strategy.
It should include what your aims are, how you’ll measure your success, who is in the team to take it forward, the employee group you’ll pilot with and a content strategy.
This should fit within your wider corporate communications strategy and be aligned with business aims.
Consider what your advocacy strategy needs to deliver. Is it increased sales, is it to support recruitment, is it community engagement?
As we covered in the webinar, the three key points of business knowledge, understanding stakeholders and measuring well should underpin everything we do. And with that knowledge, understanding, and evidence we can focus our efforts to deliver what matters most for the organizations we work with.