If you had to choose just one channel to deliver your internal comms which one would you pick? Tough isn’t it? One leading internal comms expert chooses his favourite and tells us why. Read on…

by Chris Elias

I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. You have the meeting which discusses an issue or situation that promptly ends in “We need some ‘comms’ – soon.” – with a pointed nod in your direction, just as everyone gets up to leave.

Easy as that. No?

We return to our desk with notes upon notes of scattered detail, in no real logical order from which we attempt to define objectives and work up a plan that meets the needs of our employees.

Sound familiar?

As a communicator working in Government, we follow something called the OASIS model;

  • Objectives
  • Audience Insight
  • Strategy
  • Implementation
  • Scoring

It’s a simple model. And one that has really helped me coach ‘non-comms’ folk into finding a comms approach that achieves actual outcomes.

In reality though, we often find ourselves in situations that leaves little time to consider each element in great enough detail before having to at least manage the silence in some way. Particularly in areas of organisational change or HR related issues where you’re constantly battling against the rumour mill and the grapevine (I’ve not yet worked out which one is worse!).

What usually perishes in the squashed timelines is the insight part. We start communicating without really having an understanding of the different sectors in your organisation and what the current perceptions are or what questions they have.

When @KimSkliner asked on the excellent comms2point0 ‘Comms Leads Group’ on Slack to highlight our most successful internal communications channel, my reaction was to say webchat (I used CoveritLive – Other tools are available).

And here is why…

In situations described above, where time (or lack of it) makes it’s difficult to anticipate questions or reactions about a topic, a webchat combined with a brief introductory email or intranet article works brilliantly.

With a panel of ‘experts’ and an hour of time you can cover in excess of 100 questions that absolutely quench the thirst of information and gives brilliant evaluation and future planning/insight prospects.

Whilst something like the OASIS plan is great, it’s meant to be used as a guide. I’d say, aside from the ‘O’ (Objectives) which should be agreed and solidified early on, each other part should remain flexible and open to iteration.

A webchat plays right into this by firstly developing the ‘Audience Insight’ part, giving first hand insight into what is on people’s minds (some of this will often curtail rumour mill content). If the timing isn’t right to answer that’s ok – just be honest.

But as a communicator you can’t then ‘unknow’ those unanswered questions, or ‘unsee’ the discussion that happens amongst the panel when faced with it – you can use these to feed in to the medium term strategy and implementation stages to help form a set of activities that will fill the gaps and establish priorities.

Where answers or assurances can be given, great. There is a spontaneous honesty, an informal and unrehearsed sincerity from hearing from a senior leader (or SME) in a chat style that is hard to replicate on other channels. In my experience, great for building trust and enhancing interactions and ‘visibility’ of senior leaders.

Essentially it’s short circuiting the planning stages, by issuing content, answers and working toward the objectives whilst really helping make sense of the perceived list of actions from the original discussions and comparing them with the actual needs of the audience and people around us.

I found that it was an incredibly valuable tool to use throughout several large internal campaigns to make sure you’re on track to achieving the outcomes demanded of you at THAT meeting.

Initially, it can be daunting to get the panel to be open but the within 20 minutes of quick fire engagement, confidence grows and the value is realised. There is usually a high level of adrenaline flowing within the session and you’re role as a communicator is to be the unbiased conscience between the panel and the audience – to give them confidence to answer and when to consider a holding response.

After the ‘adrenaline’ hour passes. And like most adrenaline fuelled things… they just want more and more. It plays right an organisations need to foster two-way conversations and often tips the balance toward 40%/60% speak/listen ratio advised for the modern workplace.

It may not always be the best comms channel, every time, in every circumstance, but if you’ve not tried it, it should definitely be something you consider having in your ‘channels toolbox’.

And if you have any examples of what other channels work well in other circumstances, I’m sure the guys at comms2point0 would love to hear from you (yes please, Darren)

Chris Elias is Head of Internal Communications at the Intellectual Property Office. You can follow him on Twitter here.

image via C Thomas Anderson

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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