The five golden rules for internal communication

Ensuring staff members understand the purpose of the firm they work for and have the information to do their job effectively has always been important.  But, with Covid-19 running amok amongst all companies from multi-nationals with complicated just in time supply chains, to the local artisan bakery, a sense of social purpose is critical to the success of any business. With massive limitations on their lives and jobs now, and a sense of “war footing”, people want to feel their jobs are supportive of the broader “war effort”.

Communicating in the right way and the right time is an important part of this.

With this in mind, we have calibrated Powerscourt’s Five Golden Rules for internal communications for the new reality.

  1. Tone is key – especially today. The how is as important as the what: Tone is so critical at this time – and much of this is about creating authenticity. Don’t sugar coat news; and talk human, not corporate.  Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and commit to regular updates.  Make sure you call out any false information – so your teams ‘hear it from you’ and trust your communications. Information cascades should contain scripts and Q&As to managers, as well as the formal message itself, to ensure consistency of both delivery of the actual message and response to employee questions. It is well worth considering a letter/presentation to be sent to all colleagues outlining any announcement alongside the potential use of a video interview with the CEO to humanise the method and provide greater engagement.
  2. The medium is the message – don’t be afraid to work with what you have: Delivering messages to colleagues in a way they are used to seeing them is important. Internal Comms isn’t all about the message. How the message is delivered is also very important. An email won’t necessarily be read at the time you want; and many colleagues won’t look at the Intranet, perhaps even more so now that they are working remotely. Resist the temptation to “invent” new ways of communicating – for example: use Teams, Zoom or Google Hang Outs if you rely on face to face meetings usually. Don’t feel you have to launch an internal social media channel (e.g. Yammer or Slack) if these are not currently used.  The needs of remote workers (especially in the current climate of social distancing) should be considered – not everyone will be able to access a webinar. Voicemails sent to mobiles or video messages on WhatsApp could be used to reach non office-based colleagues, or those without a PC/laptop. Individual teams may already use social media to communicate – and they’ll be more widely used than traditional channels. Don’t be afraid of cultivating the informal channels.
  3. Remember attention spans: Your colleagues will all be busy and distracted by multiple sources of news.  You are competing for their attention. Better to communicate often and little, than intermittently with lengthy written content. Film or audio, which can be done very cheaply and effectively on smartphones, may be more impactful than written news. Alternatively, you could record a short message and deliver it to colleagues’ phones. These methods have the added advantage of showing who has listened/viewed your communication.
  4. It is about culture: With firms focusing on purpose, culture is paramount. Internal Comms is integral to this. Whenever a senior leader communicates, he or she should be reminding the audience of the company’s purpose. This is truer now than ever before as we adjust to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  5. Feedback: Creating a feedback loop is important. Moving to an app-based delivery of internal comms will give you much more management information than an intranet but at the same time, even if all you have is an intranet (or an email), it is important to allow colleagues to give feedback and ask questions. This can be as simple as an ‘ask the CEO’ inbox that is managed by internal comms with approved guidelines. Regardless of how messages are delivered, providing a way for employees to engage in a dialogue will make this feel like a conversation-based method of engagement versus the “command and control” tone that characterises most one-way approaches. So, if you do have internal social media channels, make sure the comment facility isn’t turned off.