The internal communication playbook
I think I can say on behalf of most communicators that we’ve all been guilty of pushing internal communication to the bottom of our ‘to-do’ list. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where we need to direct our energy towards those orbiting outside our organisation, but at the end of the day if you get your internal communication right, external communications success will follow.
In the public and private sector, internal and external communications are often kept completely separate, with different people performing different tasks. In a large organisation or department, I can understand that this may be necessary to some degree; however, effective internal communications practice needs to be owned by the whole organisation.
It must sit at the heart of every organisation.
All too often communications professionals will deny any similarities or comparisons between internal and external communications.
If I were to ask you to look at the entire functions of internal and external communications, what would you see?
I suggest the only difference you would see is the audience.
The basic questions we ask ourselves as an external communications practitioner remain the same when performing internal communications – Where is your audience? What insights do we have about them? What objectives are they trying to achieve? How do we influence them? What’s the implementation plan? How do we measure success?
These questions are the same whichever your audience. Therefore, there should be no reason as to why we can’t all be advocates for internal communication.
Effective, good, robust (however you want to put it) internal communications, builds a committed and high-performing workforce; one that is focused on achieving the organisations goals. If staff are informed and engaged then they are less likely to leave, they will be more innovative and work harder for the organisation.
Sounds like the perfect business environment, right? Well in an ideal word, yes it is, but unfortunately many organisations aren’t maximising their full internal communications potential due to lack of resources, commitment or even understanding.
Now there aren’t too many times where we would like to admit our friends, the English, have got one up on us. But in terms of internal communications, they most certainly have.
In 2014, the UK Government reinvigorated internal communications across the sector. They created an online information hub – a playbook if you will – to achieve internal communications excellence and inspire the workforce.
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The playbook is called IC Space.
It’s an online, open-to-all internal communications kit where like-minded pros, leaders and managers can access all the tools they need to communicate more effectively.
But how did it all come about?
The online hub was conceived from a government-wide review in 2011 which revealed its communication was tactically strong but strategically weak across all departments.
Russell Grossman, the then Director of Communications for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill was put in charge to spearhead the project. Grossman and his team of 15 practitioners developed, tried and tested IC Space with several communications leaders in the private and public sector.
While the toolkit could have stayed well within the internal realms of government and not see any light of day, Grossman and his colleagues convinced the powers-that-be to make it public so that entire communications community could benefit.
Trawling through the website today, you can tell it’s been pulled together by internal communicators for internal communicators to help deliver excellent government communication practice.
IC Space is divided into chapters highlighting key objectives, top tips, case studies to help practitioners do their job and increase the leadership, skills and support they need.
The extensive topic list includes, but is most certainly not limited to:
- Why internal communication must be strategic
- Developing internal communications strategy
- Why does understanding your audience matter?
- Why you must evaluate
- Why does engagement matter?
- The impact of leadership behaviours on employee engagement
- Understanding how people react to change
- When change communications go wrong
- Deciding what channels to use
- How to develop a channels plan
- Writing for different channels.
A key takeaway for any communications professional from the IC Space is the impact leadership has on employee engagement.
As mentioned above, an engaged workforce has a direct impact on key organisational outcomes. It can increase profits and levels of customer satisfaction, enhance staff productivity and innovation, and decrease staff absence and turnover.
There is also a strong correlation between leadership behaviours, the culture they create and team engagement. Leaders who consistently apply the enablers of engagement (strategic narrative, engaging managers, employee voice and integrity) achieve high team engagement, and achieving team engagement is a win for all involved.
All in all, IC Space contains content that is relevant, timely and detailed.
If you haven’t already had the chance to review what the UK Government has done in the internal communications space, then I highly recommend you take the time to familiarise yourself with IC Space. It provides a refreshing approach to the somewhat ‘misunderstood’ internal communications profession and is applicable to all communicators in the public and private sector.
Also published on Medium.