Let’s bust these myths about internal communications

It’s more than just ‘sending out stuff.’ Here’s how to clear away the misconceptions and get the respect you deserve.

What do internal communicators do all day?

What does—and what should—our work consist of?

To separate the myth from reality, let’s dispel four common misconceptions about our work:

Myth: Internal communication is about sending out stuff.

The main problem with sending out stuff is that it offers no opportunity for two-way communication. What happens to employee voice in this scenario?

Writing on The IC Space website , Russell Grossman says:

Internal Communications’ function is to help leaders in your Department or Agency inform and engage employees, in a way which motivates staff to maximize their performance and deliver the business strategy most effectively. It is not about “sending out stuff.”

In its Snapshot of Communications Competencies, The IC Space describes part of our role as communicators:

Provide support and guidance to leadership in the delivery of internal communication. Coach leaders on their communication style and on how to engage and build dialogue with staff. Ensure consistency of voice and message across all internal channels. Lead internal communication planning and provide timely advice to leaders in response to crisis scenarios.

It’s not just sending. It’s also about receiving, consulting and collaborating.

There’s a myth that all comms pros have a cupboard or drawer primed with just the right sort of collateral to accompany a campaign. We’re called on at the last minute to send out the shiny stuff to accompany campaigns instead of being involved from the start. To secure a more substantive seat at the table, it’s essential we demonstrate value far beyond just “sending out stuff.”

Myth: You can’t measure internal communication.

You can, and you should.

Various models and frameworks can help you measure your communication and also use data to transform it.

There’s no magic bullet to measuring communication effectiveness today. There is no definitive metric, score or index. It depends on what exactly you want to track and which activities are meaningful to larger business goals. If you don’t measure progress, how can you offer proof of your worth?

In the words of Liam Fitzpatrick, managing partner at Working Communications Strategies: “Come with data, leave with respect.”

Data is just one part of the equation, however. You must know how to translate statistics into outcomes.

I recommend exploring the AMEC framework (AMEC is The International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication). This framework applies an integrated approach to the measurement challenges of today—including social media considerations. It is clear, concise and exactly what the industry needs.

Myth: Employee-generated content threatens communicators’ jobs.

Our role is to equip, empower and enable organizations to communicate—it’s not about the byline. Drop the ego and facilitate the communication.

If employees can help by providing content, great. That’s a blessing, not a threat. Think of your role in terms of curation rather than creation of content.

Employee-generated content gives you an incredible opportunity to coach your organization and employees to communicate in a different way. I encourage you to embrace this trend and help your colleagues in communication do likewise.

Use your expertise to provide guidance. Coach colleagues on areas like tone, channel choice and topics.

Far from taking away from your role, authentic voices can enhance it.

Myth: Front-line employees aren’t concerned with the organization’s strategy.

How do you know? Have you asked them?

If the role of internal communication is to help an organization achieve its objectives, then every employee has a part to play.

The IC Space states:

The principle of good communication is to inspire a change in behavior. The best way to do this is to know who you’re talking to and what they think and feel about that change or the underlying issue. This assessment of who your audience is, and what is already known about them, is part of the communications planning process. It’s something you should be thinking about at the start of a project. Your communications strategy or plan will be more likely to achieve its objectives if you segment your audience and develop audience insight.

Furthermore, a recent report revealed:

  • More than four out of five internal communications professionals (86 percent) agreed that internal communications has the primary focus of aligning people with the organization’s purpose and strategy.
  • However, only around half (49 percent) agree that they have access to the tools and resources they need to develop high-quality internal communications.

Again, the onus is on us to cement our status and demonstrate the value of what we do. We can do that by tying our goals, objectives and outcomes to what our peers and executives are trying to achieve. Our work should dovetail with the organization’s strategy.

What’s missing?
These are just some of the myths surrounding the wonderful world of internal communication. What would you add to the list?

A version of this post first appeared on All Things IC.


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