One of the most common frustrations for communications professionals is how to ensure that internal communications is seen as everyone’s responsibility, not just the preserve of the communications team.
While employees may be used to playing their part in saving a council money by adhering to procurement policies, or ensuring a fair work place by complying with employment legislation, when it comes to taking responsibility for communication it is too often directed to the professionals. So how do you position internal communications as something that involves everyone?
Start with your council’s corporate narrative, vision and aims
Is communication mentioned anywhere? Does it include words such as reputation, satisfaction, engagement or culture? If so the building blocks for making internal communication part of your council’s fabric are already there and provide you with a tangible basis to direct your staff to. If the ultimate objective of a council employee is to deliver the council’s mission, vision and values, then everyone has their part to play in contributing to all the different aspects of those objectives. If communications or engagement is not part of your council’s mission statement or vision, you need to ask why and consider what you can do across the organisation to give communication and reputation a higher profile for your council. If you’re not telling staff, residents and stakeholders that you’re an organisation that cares about communication, they might not see the need to listen to what you have to say.
Clarify your story
The case for everyone playing their part in saving money is compelling. Put simply, if everyone plays their part, the organisation can save money without unnecessary cuts to services or jobs. It is an easy message and one that everyone can influence, whether they are ordering stationary or commissioning care services. Think about applying the same principle to communications. What is the case for everyone getting involved in internal communications? What impact will it have? Will sharing responsibility help the council to retain the best staff? Deliver better services? Will it save money or enhance how satisfied residents are? Think about why you want people to share the responsibility and craft messages that explain that point clearly.
Find opportunities for people to take responsibility
There is little point in asking people to share the responsibility if they do not have opportunities to take it. Develop facilities that allow people to actively take part in internal communications. You could consider encouraging staff to blog on your intranet, presenting projects at conferences and team meetings, write for your employee magazine or take part in Q&As with your senior leaders.
Make it easier for people
Although it is important to empower people to play their part in communicating internally, it is important to remember that your employees also have busy day jobs. Consider tools such as:
- regular manager briefings that outline exactly what line managers need to tell staff in quick and digestible sections
- clear guidelines for submitting news stories for your intranet
- tips on what makes a good blog and examples for people to read
- a database of correctly branded corporate templates
- a dedicated mailbox for employees to submit internal communications ideas and comments (with your response times clearly outlined)
- headline summaries of your video key messages for employees without video access
Reward and accountability
Rewarding examples where people across the council have taken responsibility for internal communication can be an effective tool for encouraging other to follow suit. Encourage those doing it particularly well to share their stories, perhaps through talking about how they have done it at team meetings or through articles in your online channels.
If encouragement is proving ineffective you could consider making some aspects on your internal communications activity mandatory, such as attending chief executive roadshows, or completing communications e-learning packages. In extreme cases you may consider holding employees who do not comply with these request to account, but remember, this tactic should only be considered as a last resort. You want people to see the benefits of getting involved in internal communication, not force them to listen to what you have to say.