How are internal communication strategies designed and implemented? Why do they matter?
Today I have a guest post for you by Lisa Pantelli @lisapantelli. She’s an award-winning employee engagement and internal communications specialist and Director of Become. Lisa says she is passionate about gathering and interpreting employee-led insight to develop strategies to drive positive change.
Sounds good to me!
I’ll hand you over…
Why internal communication strategies matter
In 2017 I had the privilege of undertaking a PR Academy diploma in internal communications. As someone who loves to learn, it was a fantastic experience to be able to reconnect practise with theory. It also gave me the opportunity to explore an area which I am particularly passionate about, strategy and internal communications.
As part of the course I had to deliver a research project. I relished the challenge (although admittedly with two boys, a business and pregnant with number three, life at the time it was pretty full on!).
The focus of my research was on the use of strategy in internal communications and the way in which such strategies (where they exist) are designed and implemented.
Aside for a personal interest in this area, I wanted to delve further into one of the common challenges I see within businesses – the absence of an internal communications strategy. While many teams indeed may strategies to support particular campaigns or initiatives, I rarely see a strategy which binds efforts with the objectives of their organisation.
Strategy is often mistaken for tactical activity and what strategy is in place can be based on ideas rather than audience needs. The result of this investigation was my recently published Why Strategy Matters report.
- Strategy: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim
- Tactics: Means in which a strategy is carried out.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Ten must-haves for your IC strategy.
Adoption of IC strategy remains low
Insights were gathered from senior internal communicators (those who had responsibility for design and implementation of the internal communications function within their organisation) across all sectors via 60 web-based surveys and 14 one-to-one interviews.
Some of the results were startling:
- 62% had no organisation-wide definition of internal communications
- 44% had no internal communications strategy (and 22% of these had no plans to produce one in the next 12 months)
- 59% of those with a strategy regularly undertake activity which does not directly relate to their strategic objectives
- 7% of those with a strategy did not believe in it
Although these figures present a less than encouraging picture, delving into these figures further, the picture as to why this is the case became clearer.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to write an IC strategy.
Evidence based research – the IC blind spot?
Management theory has long-held the view that a goal of effective strategic planning process is to make sure that the key decision makers have a solid understanding of the business and agree a common fact base.
To do this, any strategy needs to start with research to ensure the inputs are aligned to the desired impact of activity undertaken.
How can you do this?
Formative research, or evidence-based research is the process of conducting research before a programme is designed and implemented. It is a recognised means of devising strategies which encourage long-term change.
In my experience, few internal communications teams conduct any formal research. Research is often limited to anecdotal feedback, gut feel and outputs from a staff survey (which may not always be the biggest issues facing the business).
From my research, 85% of respondents understood the value that research can play when it comes to developing a strategy yet just 8% admit to regularly conducting any.
Again, looking into why this was the case, 59% felt that the reason they didn’t conduct any research was because they felt they lacked the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake any effectively. 65% of internal communications have never received any formal training on how to conduct such research and 83% would like to be better skilled in this area.
Internal communicators need a strategy intervention!
Although my research just skims the surface of this issue, what I concluded is that internal communications must better position itself as a strategic business function. To do this we need to demonstrate our value.
Value can only be demonstrated by being able to effectively measure what it is we do and measure our activity against the overarching objectives of the business by drawing on data and insight.
We know good internal communication plays a key role in enabling employee engagement and is consistently ranked a top three priority for CEOs. Yet despite this investment in those who have responsibility for effective internal communication remains low.
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to fulfil your 2018 ambitions.
What can we do?
It’s time for businesses to recognise that responsibility for this shift doesn’t solely sit with the internal communicator. More investment needs to be placed on those who have responsibility for internal communications to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and capability to design an effective strategy. In doing so, I am confident we can then shift towards playing the invaluable strategic role which I know we can all do.
You can download a full copy of the report here.
Post author: Lisa Pantelli
Thank you Lisa. What’s your experience? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below.
First published on the All Things IC blog 18 September 2018.