In an ongoing series, I invite internal communications experts to blog about their thoughts on the state of our industry, challenges we are facing – and what they think are essential in order to face the challenges. Today’s blog post contribution is from Katie Marlow. Katie’s consultancy Little Bird Communications, helps businesses and organisations tell their story.
1) What was your path to working in internal communications?
My career path to communication has been colourful and fun. Before getting into communication I ran restaurants, and always had long chats with the owners about managing the teams, that made their businesses successful. I always took the view that if you want someone to help you, you need them to be on side. Being open, honest and listening to their point of view is critical to achieving that. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, you have to listen or you’ll never learn what your employees, customers or partners want. And if you don’t know what they want how can you possibly persuade them to support you and your organisation.
The more I worked the more I realised I wanted to work in communication. So, with a couple of business qualifications under my belt I went to Bournemouth University to study Public Relations. Since graduating in ’99 I’ve worked in corporate communications in the NHS, insurance industry, IT and mobile sectors, local government and now I freelance and work closely with CIPR Inside.
2) What are the skills you think an internal communicator needs to successfully implement an IC strategy?
Being able to connect with your colleagues, listen to their ideas and concerns, and understanding what they want is key. Listen, and embrace other’s ideas. Create and take part in conversations. Transparent and authentic communication will help build connections, get support and action.
Create good ‘stories’ that explain to people ‘why’ a project or action is important and ‘why’ they should do it. If you can’t figure out why someone should do whatever it is you want them to do, how can you communicate it to your colleagues. Knowing your message, being clear and concise will help you build the story.
Be prepared to change your tactics – don’t just stick to the plan. If it’s not working, change it.
3) What are the biggest challenges internal communicators face right now?
As more organisations understand the value that good internal communication can bring, as communicators we need to be able to take a strategic view. This will also come with the challenge of saying ‘no’ to some of the requests to just send stuff out that we have managed in the past.
Adapting to look at the wider communication challenge not just employee or internal communication channels will also be a challenge for some organisations where communication has been divided into different ‘disciplines’ or ‘channels’.
4) Is it important to align external and internal communications in an organisation? Why?
Absolutely yes. Organisations can’t control the messages. Communication does not happen in a vacuum, and now more than ever, effective communication needs to be open, timely and integrated across audiences and channels.