As the dust settles on our new reality, it comes as no surprise that the corporate communication landscape has shifted.
Thought leaders in our space have been pushing the internal communication agenda, speaking to its corporate importance, for many years. Yes, there are organizations led by communication-first progressive executive bodies that have invested in building internal capabilities, to truly understand the value it brings to engaging with staff on delivering corporate objectives.
But for the rest of us – the one-person team or the off-the-side of our desk, there’s nothing quite like a global crisis to see our agenda being brought to the fore!
No doubt, it has been an interesting, challenging, and overwhelming time for everyone. Despite having years in the internal communication game, I wish I could confidently say that I was adequately prepared – not just from a crisis communications perspective, but in my ability to take the lead and help guide my executive team through this.
Perhaps I am too harsh on myself as indeed, this one was hard to predict! It’s like combining everything I know about crisis and change communication best practices and piecing together a shifting 3D puzzle – the one where I lost the instructions and am not 100% sure I have all the pieces. The old adage “change is the only constant” rings true.
So, how do we move forward from here?
I would argue that our work is only genuinely kicking off now. I am not referring to our stalwarts and experienced colleagues, whom I thank for driving conversation and rallying support for our community. But to the marketer, HR professional and executive assistant tasked with internal communications, or the stand-alone passionate corporate communicator, this is what is helping me add to the puzzle, one piece at a time:
Find those three or four voices on social media that you have come to trust and focus on what they are saying. There is a lot of talk out there right now, and it’s simply overwhelming. I don’t doubt the good intentions, but if you follow your identified influencers or professional bodies – what you need to hear will eventually get to you, and they will make sense of it. I wish I could follow and listen to everything and everyone, but it’s simply too much right now.
A few voices I follow and stand out for me include IC thought leaders Mike Klein and Rachel Miller and of course the Institute of Internal Communication and the International Association of Business Communicators.
A crisis highlights systems, processes, and efforts that both work and don’t work. At this stage, most of us are probably recovering from rolling out the crisis communications plan, updating it or pulling it together for next time.
Company leadership, the CEO, our managers have no doubt queried the internal communications systems in place. How are collaborative platforms from good old email to the intranet achieving objectives? How is communication interpreted through line managers? What online conferencing tools are the best? These questions are front and center right now in preparing for a post-COVID reality.
Hopefully, this hasn’t been a time to portion blame but rather an opportunity to find solutions together.
And that’s also the opportunity! How do we analyze our current environment and close the gaps – should they exist? While what we know to be true might not be the same at the executive or end-user (staff) level, getting to understand these needs and pain points is the first step in finding solutions to help make the next crisis or change less daunting.
The time to negotiate with stakeholders the role everyone will play in the success of the solution is now. For any new platform or innovative communication solution to be successful, it requires ownership, leadership participation, adoption, and ongoing engagement – long after the dust settles on this current crisis.
Maybe this internal partnership has been effortless in the past, perhaps now is the time to give it an extra little nudge.
I also believe in partnering with suppliers that I can trust. Often, I have tried to push better internal communication on my own with systems that are built and delivered by non-communicators. What I need now, is to work with people that can share their expertise, understand my business, speak my language, and be able to partner for the future.
Most of my colleagues and industry peers arrived in internal comms accidentally. With journalism, English, creative, HR or marketing degrees, we have ended up where we are largely because of our empathy and desire to make a difference. We are problem-solvers, good listeners, resourceful, and hate to let anyone down.
Relationships matter, and how people engage with what we do matters. In times of crisis, we tend to shoulder the intensity of it on behalf of the organization. This is our gift and our vulnerability.
What our organizations need is smarter and more impactful internal communication, and that begins with our focus on the bigger picture. While this is most certainly a crisis, it would be even more devastating not to come out of this advocating for a way to do things better next time.
To end, ultimately, you need to know that you have got this. The profession has some great resources, knowledgeable leaders and the community are leaning on each other and growing. Keep your focus, ask for help, find people you can trust, and look after yourself.
The team at IC Thrive has been working hard to create valuable content around internal communication best practices during times of crisis. Read up on how you can call in reinforcements by training managers to communicate effectively, engaging remote employees or adding your intranet to internal communication arsenal.