Hands up those who think that the primary role of Internal Communications is to craft and deliver corporate messages?
I’d like to think any communications professionals reading this have kept their hands firmly pointing to the floor. I’m sure I’m right on this. I’m just as sure however that a significant proportion of senior executives across the land are tempted to raise their hands if they haven’t already thrust them up towards the heavens.
I believe that the primary role of Internal Communications is to create or at least contribute to a climate where people are increasingly receptive to receiving those corporate messages in the first place.
Communication does not take place until the intended recipient receives and accepts the message. You can shout as loud and as often as you like, but if no one is listening you are not communicating.
Every so often I come across people who believe that if you craft an email containing all of the relevant points you wish to get across, once you have hit the send button you can put a tick in the ‘communication done’ box. As George Bernard Shaw famously once said “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Yep – I buy that.
A big part of my job is to educate and support those around me who believe they have communicated when they haven’t – as well as to undertake all manner of activities to increase the likelihood that when a corporate message is sent out there is a natural demand from the recipient to accept delivery. I don’t want to see people hiding behind the curtain when the postman knocks on the door.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The horse will only drink if it is thirsty. The job of Internal Communications is to create thirst.
This is where things get a touch more complicated. Every organisation is different. There is no one size fits all approach that will work from one company to the next. The sort of things I mean will usually involve varying degrees of getting down and dirty, lots more listening, creating more opportunities for conversation, finding the right balance between push and pull, and equal measures of transparency, openness, humility, honesty, integrity and fun.
However, there is one thing that can be applied to every enterprise regardless of size, age and location; and that is the need to enlist the unequivocal support of your line management community. I sit firmly in the Larkin & Larkin camp.
No amount of leadership summits, executive workshops, CEO breakfasts, engagement surveys, podcasts, blogs, Twittering, Yammering or firing out all-staff emails can make up for a tuned out line manager who does not regularly engage with his or her team on the important corporate issues of the day.