How to boost internal communications in a company?

I often hear this question. And almost always I get this feeling people hope they’ll hear my deeply hidden magical solution on how to boost internal communications. Or they say it with such a worried face as if they were afraid that after hearing my secret they would realize that all the work they have already done was wrong.
Moreover, I sometimes observe that the best option for them would be if my tips were to be implemented immediately, cheaply and with a little effort. My advice is simple, but it doesn’t mean it’s quick to implement. Sorry. But it works so keep reading.

There is no magic in internal communications – at least I haven’t experienced any magical tricks during my work in internal communications. To boost your IC in a company you should – are you ready for this non-magical trick? – prepare a plan and start to implement it step by step. A bit of IC knowledge will be helpful at the beginning as well.

How to start your IC work?

GET TO KNOW YOUR ORGANISATION. It’s crucial and I’m not joking. Before you start preparing your IC action plan, it’s worth exploring the company and its employees’ behaviours to know who you’ll be talking with. Observations, analyses, surveys, interviews, focus groups or the best and my favourite option – an internal communication audit – are very useful. Many of IC specialists were walking around blind, because they missed this important step. But how to plan actions for your target group, meaning employees, knowing little about them? I have no idea. Don’t call me.

THE LESS IS BETTER. When you’re a beginner (but I think this tip may be useful for advanced professionals too) and you are about to kick off your IC actions, it’s better not to create a big strategy with many ambitious goals and a years-lasting schedule. It may overwhelm you. A better option is to plan fewer activities, implement them and observe your employees’ reactions. And only then plan next steps. I recommend an agile and flexible approach.

DON’T COUNT ON EVERYONE. Although officially our target group is called ‘all the employees’, we can’t count on everybody to get involved in internal communications. Forget about it and you’ll be less frustrated. Starting to develop internal communications, you should focus on selected persons or groups. Focus on these employees who are willing to join your actions and speak loudly about their work and teams. You should show them and talk about them in your internal tools. And after some time, others will join. I’m sure. You’ll see.

Many years ago I was responsible for developing internal communications in Allegro (a corporation in my city, our Polish eBay). Although all the employees had an occasion to join my actions and were encouraged to it regularly, only some of them decided to do it at the beginning. And I focused on them. But despite that, every month I sent an email to all the workers to ask them what was new in their teams to look for new topics to our internal newspaper.

And suddenly one day I got a call from an angry manager with a question why there was the article in our internal newspaper about one of the teams and I didn’t write anything about his team! According to this manager the work of his team was more interesting and more important than the team I interviewed. I was really happy to hear that (really, because I saw my plan worked out) and asked politely if he informed me about it when he got my monthly email. Of course the answer was negative. I immediately organised a meeting with him to discuss the topic of our upcoming article about his ‘very important’ team. As you can see some employees have different reasons for and methods of joining IC. It’s OK and even funny sometimes.

SHOW YOUR INITIATIVE. While boosting IC we should be visible in all the corners of the company, listen carefully, ask a lot of questions and catch all interesting pieces of information that should be forwarded deeper into our organisation. It’s also good to push yourself into important meetings without official invitations (yes, I was doing it!). If you know about important projects taking place in your company (and as the IC professional you should have such knowledge), it’s worth preparing a plan of communication for this project.

And don’t ask if you may prepare a plan. Go with a ready-to-discuss-and-change plan. After some time you’ll notice that apart from your annoying questions about news, more and more employees will inform you about what’s going on and what’s worth spreading. Just be visible and use the news you get. Show people that if they inform you, something will be done with these pieces of information. You will use them to prepare an article or to organise an interview.

TEACH YOUR AUDIENCE. It is us – IC professionals – who know how to communicate efficiently, not the employees. Let’s not forget about it. Our colleagues don’t have to know how to write an article or how to behave in front of the camera while recording an interview for our internal purposes. It’s our job to support and show them how to do it.

During my work for Allegro I edited all the articles to our newspaper and intranet sent to me by employees. I have a rule that after my changes (I wasn’t soft while editing) it’s an author who approves the article last, so they can control their piece after all my cruel changes. Apart from editing texts I also wrote comments saying, e.g. it’d be useful to add subheads for all the paragraphs to make the article more readable (which I added to show how it looked like) or it’d be good to add quotes of other employees taking part in the described project or that the author may consider adding some illustrations to make this piece more attractive, etc.

After some time those employees sent me better articles with the elements I had suggested to add. People are wise. Just teach them how to communicate better.  

YOU HAVE TO PROMOTE IC. Promote internal communications, its tools, possibilities and next actions. Remember that the best option to persuade people to join is to show them results of former works and opinions about our work. Self-promotion is also important – show your knowledge, plans, finished projects and achievements.  

REMEMBER ABOUT LEADERS. Having support for our IC actions from leaders is very helpful. It may raise the importance of IC up. My tips described above will work in this case as well – show your initiative, teach the leaders and don’t count on everybody. And don’t ask if you may communicate a particular topic. Instead of that, go to a manager or a board member with a ready IC plan or even a draft of your article that you recon should be sent to employees. With such an approach you may start your conversation with a leader not about IF we should communicate it, but about HOW to do it efficiently. The decision about doing it has just been made by you.  

REGULARITY AND PATIENCE. Regular actions are very important in IC. They should be supported by your patience. Don’t worry, I don’t have this feature (still working on it, but with a limited progress). So plan small steps, take them and then plan the next ones. They should be put on a timeline. Do what you have to do and wait for first effects. After some time, when your actions are bigger, results will be more visible as well.

Will it work?
Will these tips really work? I’ve been applying them for years and I’m still in this business, which means they work. If you think they aren’t complicated, it’s the right observation. They aren’t, but they are time- and energy-consuming. As I mentioned at the begging of this post, there’s no magic in IC (or if you have experienced this, let me know, it must be interesting). There is just our work. And if all those tips are so simple, don’t wait to implement them. Start now. Slowly, but systematically. And let me know how you are going. Fingers crossed.


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