You understand me

I recently wrote a piece for the CharityComms website about planning an IC campaign for a charity. The website is dedicated to improving all aspects of communications for charities and I was pleased to be able to contribute my IC expertise to the mix.

This got me thinking – is planning IC for a charity or a university (my main client base) different from planning IC for a more commercial organisation? My answer? Yes and no! In many ways, it’s no different at all. You still need to consider what you’re trying to achieve, who with, what your key messages are etc. Many of the charities I work with are large, complex organisations, similar in structure to corporate organisations. And universities are also diverse and complex. They have strategies; they have organisational goals and objectives – all things your IC should be supporting.

As often in this life, the devil is in the detail. Where IC planning becomes different is in the detail of the audiences. One of the key skills for an internal communicator is the ability to get to know and understand their audience. This helps both in planning communications activity and in sharing details of feeling and ‘word on the street’ with senior managers. There will be factors about staff at charities and at universities that are different to the factors that influence staff communications at commercial organisations.

Here are some of the things I think are specific to my clients:

  • The cause: this can be a very powerful, motivational force. Remember to make use of it internally as well as externally, especially for those who aren’t working directly with service-users, researching etc
  • The academic calendar: there really is no point in launching something big during the exam period or trying to get Faculty staff together during September when the students are all arriving to start the new year. You need to know what people will be doing when, so that you can demonstrate you understand their world.
  • The culture: it is arguable that every single organisation, no matter what they do or where they are, has a different culture. However, the desire to make a difference and drivers other than pure profit can impact on the culture of charities and HE institutions.
  • Who is internal? For the people I work with this is a variable term. Staff, obviously, are in this category. So are volunteers, students, members, trustees….. And they all have different relationships and dynamics to the organisation that must be considered.

All in all, as an internal communicator, it’s important to know, or quickly get to know, the audiences you work with – whoever and wherever they are.

Until next time


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