Strategic internal communication is not about how often a company communicates with its staff. It is about the level of engagement it achieves through the effective and efficient use of a myriad of tools, which are designed, developed and executed by a new breed of professionals known as third-generation communicators. It’s about impact, not output. It’s about being strategic, not operational.
The calibre and standards of communication, globally, are shifting. A greater focus is now being placed on the business of communication as opposed to the process and function of the role. It is therefore imperative that the right supporting structures and information flow are put in place, by either establishing or reviewing the existing internal communication capability.
A sound strategic capability is made up of six key pillars. They include a sound outcomes-based measurement strategy, audience segmentation, messaging, delivery mechanisms, channels and feedback mechanisms. What each of these key points is then made up of is ultimately what will deliver an effective strategy that can be measured for impact.
Talking of delivery mechanism, a greater focus needs to be placed on the role of leadership and the establishment of sound rich media communication – a preferred medium by most staff and necessary in most companies. Leadership communication, when done correctly, can deliver better engagement, increased levels of trust and accountability, and enhance understanding. This leads to improved productivity, better bottom line results and retention of IP. And yet, this is often the most neglected areas for internal communication to review.
True brand engagement happens through quality interactions between the Stewards of the business and employees each and every day over a long period of time. These leaders need to be trained on effective communication skills, personal impact strategies and how to effectively engage their employees. An appropriate campaign can run for a specific period to support the messages imparted by leadership, but cannot do the job alone.
In most instances, staff communication surveys show clearly that within a few months of a brand activation, employees struggle to recall the details of the event; with even fewer remembering why they did it – let alone what they were expected to do with the information they were given. After all is said and done, a lot more must be done than said in the form of behaviour that supports the organisation culture, vision, mission and objectives – isn’t that what companies are looking for? If this isn’t achieved, how can the budget spent on the activation be justified?
This leads on to the issue of measurement. Companies are often able to share research into how much their channels are utilised, but few explain whether the channels where beneficial in relation to business objectives. It is imperative that research questions move away from ‘do you receive the monthly newsletter on time?’, ‘do you spend 10 or more minutes reading the intranet each week?’, etc, toward questions such as ‘Explain your most important customer service measure’ and ‘Name three of the current priorities for X’s strategic direction’.
What the latter two questions show is impact. Today’s technology allows for word recognition even for open ended questions, meaning that these can be used with greater ease.
During the Chicago presentation in 2012, Talk2Us’ Brand Engagement Compass model will be used to demonstrate the roadmap that needs to be adopted in order to establish, manage, adapt and sustain a sound strategic internal communication capability. The thought process shifts from an output and channel focus, to a need for leadership communication, sound measurement and tools and governance procedures that place communication as a board-level responsibility.
Daniel Munslow, a director at Talk2Us, a leading brand engagement agency driving strategic internal communication, will be speaking at the 2012 IABC World Conference. The conference is being held on June 24-27 at the Sheraton Towers in Chicago, Illinois.
Follow him on Twitter @munslowd