The Insiders’ Guide to Employee Communications

By Poppulo

Table of Contents

3 steps to increase your impact as a communicator

While it’s a challenging time for internal communicators around the world, many of whom face either static or diminishing budgets – and at the same time strive to become more strategic players who add value – the opportunity and technologies available to do just that have never been greater.
  1. Increase your business knowledge
  2. Understand and engage stakeholders
  3. Measure outcomes as well as outputs

1. Business knowledge

Be aware of what’s going on not only in your company, but the industry in which your organization operates.

Why? It helps you focus on what’s really important to the business.

  • Shift from outputs to outcomes (not just delivering that newsletter, but what do we want it to do. How do we want it to make a change, and what do we want people to do as a result of that newsletter).
  • When we understand the business better we can provide better insights and be that trusted source of knowledge, and earn the respect and influence within our business and with our middle and senior managers.
  • Our content can be better crafted around the challenges that we know our employees are facing, we know what’s being planned and we know what’s happening in the industry.

Business knowledge – tips to remember

  • Befriend those in the know: Use your internal network. Talk to the people you work with, spend time with them and listen to what they have to say. Understand what affects them in their work.
  • Be where the conversations are: Join the social platforms within your organization, and get the minutes and be on the circulation list etc.
  • Learn from outside your organization: Attend communication and business events to get a greater understanding of developments and what’s happening in your industry. (Quora and Kialo are useful platforms for drilling into a particular topic).
  • Share what you know, within the wider business and not just the comms team: Reporting the information you’ve gained through your communications to senior leaders and throughout the organization demonstrates your knowledge of the business. This enables you to prioritize your work and push back what’s not important, create tailored and effective communication and build influence and support the business.

We’ve created this practical guide to help hone your business knowledge: Business acumen in Internal Communications: Why it matters and how to build it.

2. Understanding and engaging all stakeholders

Understanding and engaging all stakeholders is absolutely fundamental to our work: if we don’t know what we’re doing here we’re just guessing; if we don’t know who we’re speaking to we’re just guessing – and we could be missing the mark.

When we understand and engage them it helps us do our jobs better and it also helps us coach our business leaders, which is becoming an important role for communicators, especially when leaders have to be good communicators in their own right.

It’s a 4 Stage process

1. Identify who they are
  • Use data and mapping that is already available and work with different people within the business to get the information you need, eg HR
  • Speak to other departments also, to make sure you haven’t missed anybody
  • Segment them by different variants, locations or roles etc
2. Understand them

Who are they and what do they like and dislike about their work? How do they like to receive different kinds of information? How did they respond to previous campaigns or programs? What is important to them in their work lives?

The tools you can use to understand your stakeholders includes surveys (useful for large numbers of employees, but make sure they are easy to understand and complete, and also easy to analyze and report on), focus groups, interviews, online comments and threads, and field work with frontline staff, where it’s essential to spend time with them, talking to them and observing them as they work.

3. Prioritize them

Prioritize for campaigns and topics. For example, people who have a high interest in content and are influencers, make sure to give them lots of information that’s really targeted to them. And then there are those who are influencers but have low interest in content: keep them satisfied but don’t overload them with content and information.

Stakeholder Power

Generally they can be grouped into Skeptics, Change Facilitators, Change Agents, People you need to convince.

Importance - Level of support

4. Engage and involve them
  • Tailor your communications campaigns
  • Collaborate with and involve your stakeholders
  • Create conversations around your strategies
  • Coach leaders and team members to communicate effectively
  • Share your understanding of employees with others so that the business as a whole can work more effectively
  • Feedback loop – report back and keep updating your analysis as your employee population evolves
  • Plan for the future

Understanding & engaging stakeholders – tips to remember

  • Look for existing information in your business
  • Research: interviews, focus groups, surveys, field work, desk research
  • Ask meaningful questions to find out what you need to know
  • Map your stakeholders in meaningful ways for your business
  • Use the knowledge to help you

    • Prioritize your work and push back
    • Create tailored and effective communication
    • Build influence and support the business

3. Measurement

  1. Why measurement is important
  2. Shift from outputs to outcomes
  3. Better crafted, planned and delivered communications
  4. Better use of budgets and demonstration of value
  5. Helps us to prioritize our work
  6. Future proofing – as best we can
  7. Respect and influence

Measure what matters

Shift from outputs to outcomes

Outputs (content, campaigns etc) are important but on their own will not tell us how communication has made a contribution to the business. They will tell you the pick-up on an email ‘send’ but outcomes (employee sentiment, changes in behavior, etc) will tell you the real difference a communication or campaign made.

How we measure: Think differently

  • From managing channels to managing communication systems
  • From activity to results
  • From being a cost center to a value creation center
  • From being an information distributor to becoming a strategic advisor

How we measure: Act differently

Start small:

  • Identify an opportunity to demonstrate value and measure your results
  • Somewhere you can show real improvement
  • Something you can use to showcase to others
  • Make sure you can report clearly on it and share that information
  • You want people to come to you for strategic advice and expertise, not just to send stuff out

Then build it up:

  • Build your proposition as a function. How are you adding value in everything you do? What are you helping the business to do?
  • If what you’re communicating is not helping the business should you be doing it?
  • Report really useful information routinely

Measurement – tips to remember

  • Plan and set clear and measurable objectives
  • Track business KPIs as well and your communication metrics
  • Start small – learn and share
  • Build it up and develop your reputation
  • Report, report, report
  • Use the knowledge to help you

    • Prioritize your work and push back
    • Create tailored and effective communication
    • Build influence and support the business

This section is based on a Poppulo webinar with Katie Marlow, Director, Little Bird Communications: IC’s role in corporate communications today – Meeting the challenge of tumultuous times.

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