I have just started a communications project with an organisation that has a high profile with the public, with content regularly appearing in the traditional media as well as on social media. This coverage can be mixed in terms of being positive and negative, based on fact and based on rumour and hearsay. It means that for people within the organisation who are trying to communicate effectively with their colleagues, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration.
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 in particular has made 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? Whilst basic principles remain the same, I believe there are certain specific factors you need to take into account:
Think objectively and honestly about what your audiences will already know (or think they know) and how that is making them feel. There is 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 teams can often be to get their 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 – you want your people to have access to accurate information and to feel 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 and 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. Whilst it can be very tempting to try to defend and correct all misinformation that is put into the public domain, 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