Over the years I have worked with several organisations that had a high profile with the public. Content about them regularly appeared in the traditional media, as well as on social media. This coverage could be mixed in terms of being positive and negative.
Some was based on fact, some based on rumour and hearsay.
People within the organisation who wanted to communicate effectively with their colleagues had to consider a variety of factors. From the RNLI and the Met police to the NHS and many other organisations, internal comms teams deal regularly with these situations.
Not a standing start
The impact of everyone having a viewpoint about their organisation is that internal communications are not coming from a standing start. To some extent this is true about any organisation in a world where social media makes it quicker and easier for anyone and everyone to share their opinion widely.
However, some organisations attract more attention and interest than others.
So, what differences are there when you are planning communication for this type of organisation?
Specific factors to consider
Whilst basic principles remain the same, I believe there are 4 particular areas to think about:
Think objectively and honestly about what your audiences will already know (or think they know) and how that is making them feel.
There’s no point burying your head in the sand and pretending that they will be coming to your communication completely fresh and without preconceptions.
Think realistically about what you want your people to think, feel and do as a result of your communication.
An objective of internal comms can often be to get people to act as ambassadors for the organisation. This might not be a pleasant position to put your people in if there is a lot of negative publicity. Give your people access to accurate information so that they can put their friends and family straight on misinformation if they want to.
Create trusted information sources for your audiences to turn to.
The issue of trust goes beyond communication. It encompasses actions, leadership and other areas, but where you have influence, you need to use it. For people to trust information, it has to be credible, open and honest. Don’t be tempted to sugar coat the truth or hide unpalatable facts.
Pay special attention to tone and language.
It can be very tempting to try to defend and correct all misinformation that is put into the public domain. But you need to proceed with caution. Appearing defensive and/or aggressive will not be helpful. Remember that, internally at least, you should all be on the same side (whilst recognising that it might not always feel that way).
Communication is often challenging to get right. But when there are extra factors beyond your control, it can be even trickier. If you’d like help with negotiating a tricky situation, please feel free to get in touch.
Until next time