Top tips for reviewing your internal communications strategy! by ICT MD Jos Harrison
We normally get asked to help a business with their internal comms when they know from employee feedback – or just instinctively feel – that communications aren’t working well, but they’re not sure how to fix it and want an independent, expert view. Sometimes it’s because they’re embarking on a new strategy or transformation programme and they know their internal comms aren’t fit for purpose. Whatever your reason for doing it, a new strategy driven by a review can make a real difference to your organisation, helping to drive engagement and business performance.
When did you or your organisation last take a step back from delivering your day to day communications programme to ask yourself ‘Is our internal communication strategy still right for the business? Are our channels as effective as they could be? Does our internal comms team have the right structure and the right skills?
With our experience of delivering reviews for clients across different sectors over the last 13 years, we’re proud that improvements we put in place following reviews are often still in place years later. So here are some top tips for reviewing your internal comms strategy and delivery:
TELL EVERYONE YOU’RE DOING IT
Organisations we work with are often reluctant to make a big noise upfront about reviews, preferring to keep it low key. This is understandable if they’re not sure about the outcome but we encourage making it high profile. This in itself is open and transparent and you can stress that you’ll be engaging people around the business in the review to ensure that the new strategy works for them and meets their needs. What’s more powerful than saying ‘we know we need to do better with communications, we’re reviewing how we do it and it’ll be your views that help drive the improvements we make’?
ASK YOUR LEADERSHIP TEAM
To ensure your strategy is commercial and focused on enabling the business to deliver its strategy and priorities, seek 1-1 sessions with key members of your leadership team and ask them about the business and the key messages you need to engage people in – what’s the story for your organisation? Plus what are they looking for from internal comms? It’s also a great way to see how aligned your leadership team are on the priorities for the business!
GATHER SOME DATA
Many organisations now do regular employee engagement surveys, and these usually have communications questions. But they tend to be quite high level. If that’s the case with your existing data we recommend digging beneath the surface to find out what people think about communication channels, leadership visibility etc. and also to understand their preferences. And make sure you have at least one ‘free text’ question where they can provide general comments on communications – this will give you key themes and some great quotes to use to bring employee sentiment on comms to life. When you present back to your leadership team the data and quotes will be invaluable and help you tell a compelling story.
GET INPUT FACE TO FACE
You can come up with a brilliant strategy, but if it doesn’t meet the needs of your people it won’t work for the business. I love this bit – there’s nothing like hearing from people directly with their views on communications and it’s a great opportunity to investigate the survey results if you’ve done one. It’s obviously not practical to involve everyone in the organisation so do a few workshops with representative groups of your people. Do at least one manager / leader group if you can so you can understand whether they feel they have the tools and support they need to engage their teams. And if you have an existing employee consultation forum, or brand ambassadors group, gate crash one of their meetings – they’ve usually got lots to say!
COMPARE WITH BEST PRACTICE
It’s healthy to compare your organisation with best practice elsewhere if you can. There’s a wealth of information on the web on internal comms best practice, and of course engaging an agency to support the review means you get the benefit of their experience, work with other clients and their independent view (which can be valuable when presenting the outcome of the review to senior stakeholders.) We have a model of ‘what good looks like’ developed over more than ten years and we use this as a benchmark in our reviews.
YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS: TELL THEM A STORY
We always try and tell a story with our review reports to engage stakeholders, with a natural flow – this is what your people told us, this is what you said you wanted from comms, these are our conclusions and therefore here is the proposed new strategy, and an implementation plan for the next 12 months.
Following this flow will illustrate that your new strategy is based on a thorough, logical process which has involved people at all levels and enabled you to make robust recommendations for the new strategy which will make a real difference.
SHOW SOME INTENT WITH A QUICK WIN
As well as communicating the outcome of the review – and thanking everyone for their input – we’re big fans of getting a quick win or two delivered to set down a marker, showing that their feedback has resulted in some action (a rare thing in some organisations!). The higher profile the better – whether it’s a new channel, changes to your face to face programme – anything is a visible improvement.