Last summer a not-for-profit organisation approached me for help in identifying how to take their internal communication activity forward during a period of change. A campaigning organisation that had grown rapidly in a short space of time, they had never had time to review the way they were communicating with each other, but they knew something wasn’t right. Methods and messages that had made sense when they were a handful of people in someone’s spare room, no longer cut the mustard with 100+ people in large offices across several continents.
However, knowing something isn’t working and doing something about it are two different things. The small communications team, whilst recognising some of the problems, knew that they were too close to what was going on to clearly identify actionable next steps. So that’s where I came in.
I work closely with my clients and always consider myself to be part of their teams for the duration of our association. However, I also have the advantage of enough distance to see the wood for the trees, because I’m not a permanent part of the organisation. People I interview about communication at their organisation feel able to confide in me in a way that they wouldn’t with someone who might have an influence over their career or daily working life. And I can really listen to what they’re saying without feeling personally criticised or defensive that they ‘don’t get it’.
When I carry out these research projects, I put together a report, highlighting the key themes that have arisen and my advice on what to do about them. I provide insights into what is going on right now and recommend actions to take. Of course, internal communication is rarely black and white: communication issues can often be a symptom of another organisational issue rather than a cause. So sometimes I give the client options to choose from, depending on what their priorities are and what outcomes they need.
This particular client was in exactly that position – with so much else changing at the same time, they needed to take a step back to see what value improved internal communication would add and where it was most needed. I’m happy to say that after taking some time to reflect, consider and juggle a few other balls – there’s never the luxury of a single focus for comms teams in small(ish) organisations – I am now mentoring their internal comms manager to take forward an internal communications strategic plan that will support their organisational aims. And that means laying the fundamental foundations for a communications culture that’s about more than just a shiny intranet.
If you want help to assess what’s really going on comms-wise at your organisation, get in touch and let’s have a chat.
Until next time