As I completed the last days of my six-month stint as an in-house internal communications (IC) pro, I recognized that I’ve picked up some substantial insights about the current state of IC.
There’s an old saying: “there ain’t no ‘I’ in ‘team,’” but there is very much an “I” in Internal Communication. In fact, many of the important attributes of internal communication (not so) coincidentally start with the letter I. Here are some which come to mind:
IMPORTANT: lets start with the big one. Internal Comms is important. Whether organisations invest in it, whether they have the right people in the right roles, and whether central messaging is taken seriously or care of the narrative is left to the rumo(u)r mill, does not diminish the importance of having common objectives, terminology, touch stones and context.
INTEGRATIVE: At its best, internal communication connects the dots, and it makes sure that those people who connect the organization acknowledge the same reality and help move things in a shared direction.
INFORMATIVE: The original, and unfairly despised, purpose of IC. Organisations may continue to issue “no newsletter” dictates and bemoan email clutter and “wasted” time on the sharing of information, but having thousands of people working at cross purposes is hardly less wasteful. Ignorance is expensive.
INJECTIONAL: I may have just made up this word. But it describes the ability of a really good IC platform or tool to be a place where new ideas, test balloons, and even subversive concepts, can be introduced to the organization – injected – without the drama of change programmes, roll-outs, or orchestrated pilots.
INSPIRATIONAL: People like to be inspired, especially by other people, and particularly by people who remind them of themselves. While it’s easy to contrive weak attempts at inspiration, the ability of IC to amplify the stories of real people pursuing common objectives to their peers and friends is hard to surpass.
INDIVIDUAL: Employees are not slaves, and not robots. They make decisions on their own, and they base their decisions on their own assessments, considering, but not aping, those of the organization and their manager. While Old School top-down, one-size-fits-all comms may be seen as “simple,” “convenient” or “what employees expect,” it doesn’t reflect or respect individual decision-making, and is often met with skepticism or worse.
Ultimately, if the “I” in internal communication were to mean one single thing, it’s that it is the most efficient, and often the most effective, way to collectively engage with individuals inside the organizational firewall. And as long as organisations are ultimately comprised of individuals, focusing on the “I’s” in IC is a way of making sure we keep our eye on what is important.
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