In last week’s webinar my guest was Internal Communications expert Liam FitzPatrick. He’s co-authored a terrific new manual for internal communicators, and shared insights from the book with attendees.
It certainly wasn’t going to be possible to cover everything in this excellent manual – so I asked Liam to pick what he considered to be eight essential rules of Internal Communications. (View the on-demand webinar here).
I pulled out some of the points he made around each of the eight rules.
1. It’s about results and outcomes; not activity
No matter how exciting it is to deliver a beautiful brochure, leadership conference or intranet site, if nobody works differently as a result, what is the point? Instead, start planning a communication strategy with stakeholders by asking: What do we want employees to DO? What do we need to achieve – what behavior do we want to change?
2. It’s about the business
Why should the stakeholders increase investment in Internal Communication if the function is not proving impact on the business? Make sure your communication goals are aligned to your organization’s business strategy. (and see rule 5 about measurement!)
3. We don’t drive with our eyes shut
Communicators are a bridge between two worlds – employees and senior leaders. You need to understand how the employees think so you can explain to leaders why their latest mad idea is going to be hard to communicate. No survey can give you that employee feedback. You can only get that type of insight if you’re ‘walking the floor’ to talk and listen to people. No one else can do it for you because what you know is what makes you valuable and without it, how can you produce communication that will interest anyone or talk to their concerns?
4. People have two ears and one mouth – so should organizations
Your mother told you it was rude to shout and never listen; but that’s exactly how most organizations behave towards their staff. Engagement happens when people can weigh-in with their thoughts. When people are listened to at work, amazing things happen; people are more loyal, work harder and embrace change.
5. Come with data; leave with respect
Did you hear the story about the CFO who was respected even though they never looked at the data? No, we haven’t either. Senior leaders live in a world of facts and spread sheets, so show them data about process and outcomes – and present it simply. You don’t need a Ph.D. to show how communication can help with the things that matter. You just need to communicate your successes to senior stakeholders and offer them the business insights as a result. The benefit of this for you is it will increase your own and your department’s visibility as vital contributors to the organization’s success.
6. Line managers matter
Research shows that employees want to hear from an expert, they want to hear from a person who really knows what’s going on. Supervisors and line managers are a strong channel for employee communications; not always, but very often. (If you’ve identified weak communicators, work with them to enhance their effectiveness.) When local leaders care about communication, can explain how events and plans affect their team it engages staff. You’ll nearly always get great results from your communications when you ask, “What do I need managers to discuss with their teams?”
7. There is no silver bullet
I bet you rarely have a week go by when a brand new wonder tool is launched and will remedy all the problems of your universe. It has never been true and never will be! While technology can be a terrific enabler of communication and help make things work, there is no individual piece of technology that’s going to live up to its promise, or miraculously transform communications. It comes back to the fundamentals of good communication, no matter the channel or tool.
8. What we do matters
Who actually gets to change things daily at work in small and large ways? Internal communicators! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? If you get it right, change happens because employees are committed and excited and they stick around because they feel it’s worthwhile, they feel like they’re making a difference – and they’re proud to tell people where they work. If you get it right, the business grows, prospers and blossoms. We should be proud, but take our profession seriously, continually improve our skills – and ensure we can prove our business value every step of the way.