A couple of months ago, I had a conversation with a company owner about their internal communications plan. It was heartening to hear that they actually had one, and a comms manager was in place too! They were happy with how information was shared, but the company was growing quickly, and a new plan was needed. I suggested an internal comms podcast, of course.
They looked surprised, but interested. “A podcast for inside the company? How does that work?”
I explained some of the ins and outs of how it would work, what the benefits are, and how it compares with more familiar internal comms tactics. They were impressed, but ruled the idea out as being “too much effort for too little gain”. I asked them to expand on that, and wondered what their expectations were. It seems that they were expecting the whole company to jump onboard the podcast trail, and my forecast for increasing their listenership was too conservative for them.
I wish I’d been quick enough at the time to counter their argument, by asking them to reassess their expectations of how effective their internal communications strategy should be. Here’s how I might do that now.
Dishing out the MacBooks
If you have a consignment of 25 new MacBooks to share across your business, but there are 50 people to think about, who do you give them to?
Here’s what I would do: I’d give them to the people most adaptable to change. Age doesn’t come into this. You may have people that have worked at the company for 20 years who you think deserve a new MacBook. However, what you’re perhaps asking them to do is become proficient with new hardware and software that may alter how efficient they are, or even how happy they are. The MacBook may be wasted on them.
I would give the new MacBooks to the new starters who are raring to go, and would get a good impression of you and your company from the outset, simply because you’ve furnished them with the best tools to help them achieve their goals. Saddle them with an old laptop from day one, that’s barely running Solitaire, and you’ve made a poor impression. Not only that, but you may be hindering creativity and productivity from those most capable of pushing your business into the 21st century.
So, what does the above have to do with internal comms podcasts? It’s about reassessing your expectations of what you want to achieve with the tools at your disposal. You can’t please everyone. The likelihood of getting everyone in your organisation to listen to your new podcast, or read your internal comms newsletter, is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation. It’s more likely to be a small percentage of the total workforce that consumes your internal comms bulletins, and if you only manage to achieve a 1-2% increase in listeners or readers, that’s a good thing! That’s progress!
Realistic internal comms
People aren’t going to listen to you just because you’re the boss. Some of them are there to pick up a salary, some to quietly get on with filling their CV, some to bide their time until retirement. These people are probably not going to consume your regular bulletins, so appeal to those that do want to know what’s going on; appeal to those who need to be carried along on your journey, and to those who understand their role in the business, and buy in to what you’re trying to achieve.
Appeal to those guys. Give them the MacBooks! Give them the podcasts! Give them the tools they need to do their job really, really well. You don’t have to appeal to those who don’t. And don’t let that frustrate you. Some of those people disinterested in your bulletin are valuable employees, and consume what they need to consume in their own time, and in their own way. Everyone’s different. And there are those who are just not bothered about what’s going on around them. As hard as that is to hear, it’s the truth. Don’t let it frustrate you. Focus on the people that take your message and your vision and run with it.
Whether they do this via email bulletin, podcast, regular town hall meeting or otherwise, focus on that. Focus on what you can achieve, lower your expectations and reap the rewards of a good, realistic internal communications strategy. Before too long, you may have a business that can afford to give everyone a new, shiny MacBook.
Rachel Miller is an internal communications professional who runs her own consultancy helping people and organisations improve their ability to communicate. Our conversation is all about revealing some of the ins and outs of internal comms I bet you didn’t know about. I mean, what’s it actually like to work in internal comms?