The New Shape of Internal Communications

My fellow IABCLA board member Ephraim Freed recently wrote a blog post entitled “The iconoclast’s guide to internal communications” where he outlined best practices for internal communications. An iconoclast, we note, is “a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions.” Freed, the employee experience manager at Regent, L.P., encouraged me to comment on his work.

Here are my thoughts:

– Item #1: “The smasher of cherished traditions has no time for dry, boring communications that may, in fact, say nothing at all,” he wrote. “Today’s leading internal comms teams help executives tell authentic stories that show emotional vulnerability, ensure transparency around decision-making, and strive to help employees make personal connections to leaders, the brand and each other.”

The words “authentic” “vulnerability,” and “transparency” stand out. In our information age, people crave genuineness. The public is inundated with news, opinion, and marketing and its volume and ease of access can create cynicism and doubt – it’s hard to know who or what to trust. Therefore, it is vital that communications professionals help others tell authentic stories that can slice through the clutter by conveying genuineness. Leaders need to be relatable to their employees, letting them know they also face struggles in their personal and professional lives.

Freed mentions, for example, Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg. The tech giant’s COO is an executive who embraces openness. She discussed the challenges of being a woman in the workplace in her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” In addition, Sandberg chronicled her grief following the loss of her husband in “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

– Item #2: “The new internal comms team is actually an employee experience team that, in addition to multimedia communications capabilities, includes skills around UXD, research and data analysis, business process management and product management,” Freed notes. “This team also needs to be connected at the hip with technical teams that work on networking and security, sys admin, development and support.”

The words “employee experience team” resonates. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve come to appreciate the group dynamic and the fact that each person brings different experiences and abilities to the collective. My primary skills are PR/marketing writing and project management, and so I must rely on those who are adept in areas outside of these. One of my favorite expressions is “I know what I don’t know,” and I’m all too happy to collaborate with a colleague who possesses an expertise that I lack.

– Item #3: “In the new model internal comms plays a role of expert sherpa, helping employees at all levels identify their audiences, use optimal channels, and deliver content that meets relevant quality standards,” Freed explains.

The phrase “helping employees at all levels identify their audiences” is noticeable. It is vital to hear from people at various standings in an organization, as everyone brings value and perspective. A personal example of this is a blog entry I recently wrote for the IABCLA site
(“I Found My People in IABCLA”). The chapter’s senior leadership asked me to talk about the association from the perspective of someone who recently moved to Southern California and joined the board. They felt that as a newcomer, I would offer a fresh take on the value of involvement in the group.

To summarize, my takeaway from the Freed’s post is: the field of communications is fluid and must change with the times. Further, the best comms is authentic, team oriented, and should involve individuals at all levels of an organization. “Today the employee is the customer, the leader is a listener, and internal comms is a multidisciplinary team that facilitates connection and change,” Freed noted, and I completely agree.