Research published by Melcrum this week shows the credit crunch has been taking its toll, with more internal communicators than ever before being forced to prove their worth. From talking to comms professionals I know, it seems at a time when comms functions need to continue doing what they do best, they are being asked to stand up, be counted and fight their corner.

It is of course naive to assume communicators are above the axe when cuts are being made and I’m sure we all can think of ways to deliver value in both senses of the word, but where will the line be drawn? Bill Quirke touches on this point in the Melcrum study saying: “During the bad times there is often more budget allocated to internal comms but more work to be done, the work is far more challenging, and there are fewer people [due to reduced headcount] to do it and they are working under far more pressure. Communicators are caught up in a crunch.”

So what’s the answer? The research showed that 48% of respondents could not demonstrate a return on investment, compared to 14.7% who could. Proving your worth can be achieved through employee survey results linked to motivation/channel evaluation, successful campaigns and regular temperature checks, but what price can companies put on comms and how can you measure if your survey has been cut?

The Melcrum research revealed almost every area of internal communication is being re-examined in light of the recession such as strategy, how to reallocate money internally with smaller budgets and whether to scrap existing channels.

I think irreparable damage can be done by companies looking to make penny wise-pound foolish decisions and keep hearing cautionary tales from my peers. For example cutting channels such as printed magazines which may be the primary channel to engage frontline employees or choosing not to hold recognition events when employee morale is at rock bottom. These types of decisions could ultimately save money in the short term, yet cost untold amounts through the damage caused by the message that sends out to employees about investing in them.

From looking at the Melcrum research it seems clear to me that as communicators we need to keep value at the forefront of our minds and find ways to prove our worth and the worth of our channels to help keep employees motivated  during these turbulent times. Letting our work speak for itself and finding ways to constantly highlight what would happen without communications functions or informed managers seems key.

What do you think? What is your experience? Are you defending the bread and butter staples in the diet of your organisation? Do you have a strategy in place and know what you would defend and what you would be prepared to negotiate on?

I’ll let Bill Quirke have the last say in my musings on credit crunch comms with his cautionary statement on communicators: “They have not escaped the value-for-money test. Their reputation is fragile – communicators need to define, deliver and demonstrate their value to organisations, and not simply deliver messages.”

Stark words and definitely food for thought.

Access the Melcrum research here

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