I love working in Internal Communications. What’s not to love about trying to create a climate inside an organisation where the major factors that influence employee engagement can thrive: respect, trust, openness and recognition. For me it is the noblest of professions that has the potential to drive business performance like no other.
Marketing, Public Affairs and PR may well get all the money, resources and glory. Am I bothered? Not a jot, because I get the quiet satisfaction of knowing that what Internal Communications is doing is more challenging, more complex and every bit as important.
Internal Communications has unique challenges that external facing teams don’t have to contend with, and this fact alone makes the job such a blast.
Perhaps the biggest of these challenges is securing the enduring commitment of the senior leadership team. I say enduring because that is the key difference between external and internal communications. External communications only really needs the commitment of the senior leaders at certain points in the supply chain; budget approval, communications plan sign-off, cooperation at media training time & rehearsals, and then sticking to the script when let out in public. The rest of the time they can generally leave things in the very capable hands of the Corporate Communications team and not give a second thought to what they’re up to.
Internal Communications however needs the commitment of the senior leadership team all of the time – and I mean all of the time.
From the minute they walk in the door to the minute they clock out 13 hours later, day-in, day-out, they need to be acutely aware of the influence they have on their people. One unguarded moment; one throwaway comment on a conference call; one ill-considered line in an email; that’s all it takes to expose a potentially critical lack of alignment with company’s strategy and values, or with the rest of one’s peers on the senior leadership team.
More than anything, leaders need to live and breathe the company strategy and values through their actions,behaviours and words. Their job is to bring to bring this stuff to life internally and to empower and energise their people to follow the company’s strategic intent.
Just one loose cannon could lead to entire divisions working against each other and pulling in the wrong direction.
Internal Communications is there to facilitate and support organisational alignment – and without leadership alignment the odds are stacked against you. That’s why I believe that the single most important part of our job is to facilitate and support leadership alignment.
It’s a bit harder and infinitely more interesting than simply managing intranet content and spraying corporate messages around with the Internal Communications scattergun.