Like many an internal communications professional, I felt a shudder of recognition and sympathy when I heard about the #NHSmail blunder last week. I’m sure many of us couldn’t help thinking ‘there but for the grace of [insert your own preferred all powerful being] go I’!
During my more than 16 years of working in IC, I have never quite lost my fear of pressing send on an all staff email, just in case there is some problem I haven’t seen or anticipated. And this was that fear on a huge – and very public – scale.
Apart from the obvious frustrations, recriminations and embarrassment that this situation generated, I couldn’t help feeling that it also illustrated a point that I regularly discuss with my clients. If a channel is not fit for the communication purpose you have in mind, it can cause more problems than it solves. To ensure that you are using the best methods of communication to reach your intended audience and engage them in the ways that you hoped, you need to be clear what your objective is in the first place.
I don’t believe that email is inherently bad, but I do see far too many organisations with an over-reliance on email that is not helpful in creating an effective communications culture amongst its employees. I have worked with clients where emailing colleagues, including those within the same location, has become the accepted norm, even though it is creating an unnecessary distance between individuals and teams. I’ve also come across organisations where the dreaded ‘reply all’ button is used simply as a way for people to cover their backs by including the world and his dog in irrelevant interaction. And many other bad habits too.
And it’s not just email that can be used and abused as a channel. Intranets can go horribly wrong if they are not useful, interesting or relevant to the audience. Newsletters can be ignored or mocked if they don’t fit with the employees’ experience of life at the organisation. Face to face meetings can become pointless talking shops or a waste of everyone’s time if nothing happens as a result of getting together. I could go on….
I would advise anyone who is trying to choose the best methods for internal communication at their organisation to consider 3 things in particular:
1. Choose one or two channels that are fit for your purpose and do them really well. This will be far more effective than attempting to put lots of different things in place, so that the communications picture is muddled and confusing.
2. Just because you can do something, that doesn’t automatically mean you should. Far too often, organisations are tempted by the shiny new features of their Enterprise Social Network or the latest employee engagement mobile app; they then have to spend a lot of time and effort persuading their people to use it. If it’s not suitable for the reality of your people and your culture, that’s OK.
3. Keep your internal communications strategy at the front of your mind when selecting your methods of communication. If you know what you are trying to achieve, with which audience groups and to share which key messages, your channels should be almost self-selecting.
If you would like help in assessing which channels will be best for your organisation, including an assessment of the tools you are using at the moment, please feel free to get in touch.
Until next time