employee communications

Integrating social media into internal communications

Comms campaign check list

How not to do it!

Having been part of a social media panel at this week’s Melcrum Strategic Communication Management Summit, I was moved to write this post about how to integrate social channels into an internal comms campaign. 

As a recipient of internal comms stuff, it can sometimes feel like internal comms has become a check-list activity … someone from the business comes up to you and says: “I need to communicate something” … and you launch off on auto-pilot with a menu of channel offerings. And, when new channels come along, they get added to the bottom of the list to amplify the noise. I get the feeling that social media is often just being added to the bottom of the list.

So, for what it’s worth, here are some thoughts on the subject. Social media should never be handled as a standalone item or activity … this is true if you’re writing comms strategy, preparing a business case, writing a comms plan or trying to justify ROI. The power of social media is in its integration with other stuff … as a standalone activity, it has limited value as a comms enabler.

The way to integrate social channels into an internal comms campaign effectively is to do the following:
  1. Define very clearly what your desired business outcomes are. As an aside, I don’t think that either pride or awareness are valid business outcomes! There is nothing inherently useful in a business context in feeling proud or in knowing something … it’s what people DO as a result of that feeling or with that knowledge which should be your desired outcome. All too often we don’t press the business to say exactly what they want to be different as a result of an act of communication … if we don’t know this, how can we decide if we should do it at all, or what channels to use to do it effectively?
  2. Once you’ve agreed a set of tangible outcomes, you need to agree how you’re going to measure those outcomes to know if you’ve been successful.
  3. With this knowledge, you can then begin to define the activities which you need to undertake to deliver the outcomes … one or more of these activities may well be social media related in nature.
  4. You’ve then got enough information for normal comms planning to kick in …

In adopting this approach, you not only create a context for social channels and social content, but you also create a mechanism for measuring their value – as part of a group of comms activities, rather than on their own. By positioning social channels alongside the more traditional, and accepted, methods of communication, it also gives them gravitas in the business which often regards them as toys.

I apologise if this sounds like teaching grandma to suck eggs … but sometimes we could all do with a bit of egg sucking! 🙂

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Come out, come out, wherever you are …

I had an interesting meeting with some of our internal comms folk yesterday talking about social media and its impact on them and their roles. It really felt like pushing at an open door which is very refreshing. I guess now that we have these tools, none of us can ignore the impact they might/are having.

One of the big things I tried to impress upon them was the importance of their own personal on-line brands. Until now, internal comms people have been the invisible fixers behind the scenes – orchestrating, organising and feeding words into mouths. In a social media space, they need to come out of the shadows.

To employees, internal comms managers represent the ‘company’ – which could make it very difficult for them to engage in social media channels without getting an automatically hostile response. Getting a hostile response is significantly more likely if an internal comms person suddenly appears in a channel from no where and starts to present the company’s view. That’s why internal comms people should be building relationships and their own personal brands with their audiences now … building trust … before the time comes when they might have to deliver uncomfortable or unpopular messages. The danger is that employees are busy building networks and trust relationships among themselves cutting out the internal comms managers to the point where it will become increasingly difficult to engage and join those networks when they need to become involved to fire-fight or propagate messages.

For me, internal comms has always been about facilitating the relationship between the management and employees of an organisation. With social media tools I think the line between management and employees within an organisation disappears … suddenly, we’re all just people. It doesn’t matter where you sit in an increasingly irrelevant organisation structure, what matters is your influence on those around you. If you don’t join in, build your own brand, build trust … you will inevitably have no influence and become irrelevant. That’s not only true for internal comms people, but for all of us in any kind of organisation or network.

We all need to build trust relationships and influence now so that we have something to support us when times get tough … and tough times are always just around the corner!