This is a bit of a basic diagram, but something like this I think:
With the continued growth in both volume and influence of social content inside organisations, how should internal comms managers respond?
How can an internal comms manager keep up with the buzz in social channels inside their organisation?
You can try to use technology to monitor the buzz, but the only really effective way to keep up with what’s going on is to be in the thick of it yourself … connected to those with the greatest influence and to those who comment about the bits of the business for which you have responsibility. Internal comms managers need to be the super-networkers inside an organisation … the alternative is to become out-of-touch and irrelevant.
Social content is a rich seam of intelligence for the internal comms professional … for example: it offers real-time feedback (no need for any more employee surveys!); provides the seeds for future campaigns and messaging; allows you to see the REAL impact of what you communicate; and makes you accountable for what you communicate … in real time. Why wouldn’t you want to have access to all this …?
How should an internal comms manager engage with employees in social spaces?
I believe we should adopt the same tactics being played out on the internet by marketing and PR people representing brands in public social spaces. As an internal comms manager, you are effectively a spokesperson for your organisation … inside your organisation. The same basic rules apply whether you represent your company to external stakeholders or internal stakeholders … i.e. employees.
There are loads of great case studies on the internet for how to do social stakeholder engagement well … and an equal number illustrating vividly the dangers of getting it wrong. While these case studies might not be exactly transferable inside an organisation, the underlying principles are identical:
- set goals
- target the influential – get connected
- monitor what is being said and by whom
- do some experimental engagement adopting an appropriate tone and see what happens
My top-tip for becoming a super-networker is get in early. As soon as a social channel appears on your intranet, get involved as a user straight away … get connected to as many people as you can (you can tidy up your connections later) … build up trust and a strong personal brand as quickly as you can.
In social channels, influence comes from being part of the conversation … not part of the establishment!
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!
In 1984 BT lost its monopoly status with the de-regulation of the UK telecoms market. It has survived by defending its core, traditional business through quality of service, and flourished through diversification and transformation into a global communications services company – utilising its hard earned skills and sweating its key asset – namely its core network and its networking expertise. For me, the internal comms (IC) profession is about to have its own 1984 moment.
Until now, the IC profession has had monopoly supplier status on the flow of non-operational information within organisations. That’s about to change. The internal information environment is being deregulated through the deployment of tools that facilitate the publishing of user-generated content. This environment is about to get very busy, noisy and competitive. What can IC people learn from BT’s success:
- Defend core business through quality of service – IC people are skilled communicators who know how to exploit channels to best effect – our core ‘business’. In a competitive environment dominated by amateurs we must exploit this advantage through the provision of ‘quality’ content and channel consultancy services by utilising our core skills to differentiate ourselves from the morass of unprofessional, competitive noise.
- Transformation and exploitation of key assets – we must look at diversifying our offering, while sweating our key asset – namely, strong relationships and access to senior managers. What communications services will senior managers want in this new deregulated space? Time to start thinking and planning … maybe personal brand managers for senior people; information brokers; engagement consultants??
We must be thinking ahead to stay relevant …