I have never held a job with “internal communications” in my title. I have also never held a job where internal communications hasn’t ended up being a huge part of my job. Doesn’t matter how junior or senior the position was: somehow, I got pegged as an internal communications geek without even trying. Here are some of the opening gambits people have used at various jobs to coax me deeper into this area of responsibility:
“You seem like a friendly, extroverted person. Maybe you could design a new employee orientation for us?”
“I heard you can write skits and songs for retreats and training sessions. Can you…?”
“Can you create/re-vamp our intranet?”
“Can you create and manage a blog for our new intranet?”
And so on.
So in the spirit of cutting to the chase (after how many years of being outed?), let me explicitly state: why yes, I DO care deeply and passionately about internal communications and I also believe internal comms is one of THE most critical ingredients of a healthy organizational culture. With that out of the way, I now offer you two lists summing up what I’ve learned internal communications IS and ISN’T.
Internal communications IS:
–focused on helping employees stay connected to one another and to the mission and work of the organization for the sake of happier, more fulfilled employees, who then contribute to stronger, more successful organizations;
–particularly vital for the President/CEO and other senior leaders to prioritize when thinking about how to roll out important updates and announcements to employees;
–particularly vital for employees to prioritize in terms of when and how to communicate their feedback (positive AND negative) about organizational matters;
–an enterprise-level commitment that, if followed through on, results in employees having multiple channels and spaces to connect to and communicate with each other (virtual and actual);
–, at its best, a set of practices and beliefs that recognizes, includes, and values employees’ diversity across multiple dimensions: race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion;
–, if properly supported, can be as creative an endeavor as developing communications strategies for external impact
–, at its best, one of the most essential ingredients in helping to maintain a culture where people are able to meaningfully contribute to the mission and work of the organization, and also integrate their personal selves with their work selves.
Internal communications IS NOT:
–always focused on connecting employees solely around work-related content and updates;
–the job of one person to actually DO all the communicating, although certainly employees can and should be hired who can lead and facilitate internal communications for all;
–about expecting that employees will simply accept and parrot official talking points handed down from senior management without giving them clear opportunities to listen and engage and respond;
–about sharing EVERYTHING with all employees, and giving in to ALL employee demands for more information. Some things do need to stay strictly confidential to protect individuals’ privacy OR to avoid the destructive spread of gossip wildfire before the actual brush fire can be contained and extinguished.
–a one-way street;
–just about saying words to others, it is just as much about listening and building trust.