“The rise of external Social Media channels and internal Social Collaboration tools has made Internal Communications more difficult.” That’s the widespread perception amongst Internal Comms specialists, often voiced with a sigh and a groan.
And I’m not surprised. With most Social Business projects I’ve seen, the driving force is the IT department. Or the specially created “visionary taskforce”. Or the PR department that realized internal structures need to better reflect external communication realities. And if the Internal Comms team isn’t in the driver’s seat, they tend to get overlooked. Why is that?
The Stepchild Phenomenon
My explanation for that is actually quite simple: The traditional way of doing Internal Communications very much positions the Internal Comms team as a mouthpiece, as scribblers of articles and interviews and presentations with the purpose to fill up the company intranet. (Actually, the first Google image result for “stockphoto internal communications” is this picture, which tells you everything).
Yes, there’s some strategic thought and there will be a couple of “innovative” campaigns. But the demands of an old-school intranet just swallow up a lot of man hours. Of course they do, because the frequency of new content, the length of articles, the clicks on internal stories – that’s what a lot of Internal Communications professionals get measured by. So when IT implements an Internal Collaboration tool, or PR and Marketing set up a host of external channels, it doesn’t even cross their minds to involve the Internal Communications department in a meaningful way.
Leaving Internal Comms out of the loop leads to a lot of confusion and unneccessary barriers when trying to successfully transform a business into a truly Social Business.
Equality is Key
A truly Social Business recognizes that Internal Communications plays an equally important (if not even more important) role as External Communications. Any good business should realize that. But for a company claiming to want digital transformation, to “be social” (because they have a Facebook page…), it’s imperative to credit the Internal Communications function with the importance it deserves.
How employees accept change and positively contribute to new internal or external communication models depends on how well and how transparent they feel communicated with – not communicated to!
From Scribbler to Community Manager
So the Internal Communications specialists need to step out of the shadows of clinical management blabla. They need to become strategic advisors, bridging the divide between what management, the IT department or the “visionary taskforce” want and what employees really need, can fulfill and what realistically fits with their company culture. They need to be the beacons of change, leading by example, enabling others within the organization to drive the change. They need to become true community managers, drafting and facilitating the framework for employees and management to communicate freely and efficiently with each other.
Are you an Internal Communications specialist and see things differently? Do you agree? What are your biggest issues when implementing Social Business models? Let us know in the comments below!
tl;dr: Internal Comms needs to move from passive CEO-mouthpiece to active strategic community manager. Only then will Social Business projects succeed.
Picture credit: (c) Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo