At this time of year thoughts begin to turn to Christmas and if they haven’t already, plans start being made as to how to mark it within organisations. People inevitably look to internal comms departments to pave the way through the festive season.
As internal comms pros work to position themselves as strategic and trusted business advisers, I know how much frustration there can be when your company expects you to suddenly be a seasoned events producer on top of your day job and you end up working tactically.
Anyone else experience the perception that you have a magical cupboard bulging with Santa suits, Christmas decorations, advent calendars and the like? Yep, thought so.
If you’ve worked with me, you’ll know that I love all things Christmassy and am often the instigator in decorating the comms area in offices and finding any excuse for mince pies in meetings.
I can see the value in giving employees a break from the norm, and a reason to do something different in a bid to make the working environment that bit brighter.
Christmas card? Got it licked… or maybe not
So what’s the answer when it comes to Christmas cheer? Well engagement and involving people is key and choosing appropriate ways of celebrating for your company.
For example when I was starting out my internal comms career I was given the task of choosing the corporate global Christmas card for the organisation I was working in.
Sounds like an easy task, right? Err, not quite.
The guidance I was given, in order to appeal to a global audience, was that the virtual and paper card couldn’t say Christmas, couldn’t feature anything religious, couldn’t include snow as many parts of the world are hot at that time of year, couldn’t include images like Christmas trees, stars or anything overtly Christmas-like and not feature competitor’s colours. Not as straight-forward as I first thought…
After countless hours of searching and running the potential cards past a group of employees, I came up with something that fitted the bill (globes which hinted at being baubles but not quite, with the words ‘Happy Holidays’), but it was an interesting excerise and certainly taught me about communicating appropriately with a global workforce.
In recent years it’s certainly been a challenge for comms pros to keep morale up when budgets are being slashed. You may be in the middle of or working through a change project and the timing to ‘have some fun’ may be awful. Being seen to spend money on Christmas celebrations when people have lost or are losing their jobs for example, is just one challenge the festive season can bring.
I’ve worked in more than one organisation that had to cancel the Christmas festivities after inviting everyone. The impact on employee morale? I’m sure you can imagine…
However you don’t need to spend lots of money to create ways for employees to celebrate and mark the occasion.
For years I’ve marvelled at the santa hats, advent calendars and chocolates that have been delivered via agencies to in-house teams and I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how much they cost and thinking through how to deliver that same sense of surprise and delight on scaled back budgets in-house to employees.
Based on my experience working in-house for more than a decade, I thought I’d share some top tips about Christmas comms.
Feel free to add your own by commenting below or Tweeting me @AllthingsIC.
How to survive the festive season (Tweet this)
- Plan, plan, plan – identify what it is you want to achieve, and determine your approach, channels, timeline and budget
- If you don’t know already, talk with employees to see what expectations are, particularly if you’re new in role
- Work alongside other departments to pool resources and ideas e.g. Facilities and HR
- No/low budget? Look at what was done last year to see if you can use previous content to get you started
- If you’re expected to organise something for the whole company, can every department contribute financially?
- Use existing methods of communication rather than buy something new e.g. turn the menu Christmassy if you have one
- Encourage employee participation e.g through competitions, creating videos, speed-networking events etc
- Make decisions that are applicable and acceptable locally as well as globally – be mindful of culture and customs in your organisation
- Don’t create a ‘them and us’ Head Office vs other offices/location scenario
- If you have a network of comms champions, now is the time to really use their eyes and ears (and hands!) to deliver Christmas cheer
- Remember those who can’t take part. E.g. if you run a 24/7 operation and host Christmas parties or events, be sure to find ways to include and thank those employees who will be working
- Seek out freebies – for example I spotted this online Advent calendar today via artist Moose Allain (pictured) that can be downloaded and filled in
- Post-Christmas ensure you review what you did and capture any feedback or thoughts to help you prepare for the following year’s festivities
- Be creative, have fun and enjoy!
What is your organisation doing to mark the holiday season? If you have a story or top tips to share, you’re welcome to comment below or get in touch.
Post author: Rachel Miller
First published on the All Things IC blog 21 November 2013.