Fighting fear for effective communication

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Fighting fear for effective communication

I’m very proud to introduce my mentee, Sarah Hodges, who has written a guest blog post as she is looking for help from IC professionals. Please read her thoughts below and get in touch with her if you are happy to share your ideas and experience via hodgessarah@hotmail.com.

Sarah is currently working in the in-house team at Ernst and Young as an Internal Communications Consultant – EMEIA Markets. However her previous Internal Communications experience is in the public sector – most recently with Essex County Council. Her first job after graduating from Southampton University was in the publishing industry where she worked as an editor and says this is where her “real passion for clear, concise communications began”.

Over to you Sarah…

Fighting fear for effective communicationIn May, the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) will host its annual conference, and this year the topic is: Fighting fear for effective communication. In preparation for the event the IoIC are asking practitioners about the kind of ‘fear’ they are experiencing right now and, after completing their short survey, it got me thinking about what kind of communicator I am.

The IoIC suggests that the difference between the fearless and weak communicator is not skill, ability, or seniority, but that the fearless communicator doesn’t allow fear to stop them trying new things. Now six months in to a new role and part way through the IoIC’s advanced level diploma, I have been made all too aware recently of the changing role of the profession within organisations and of the role internal communications professionals’ play. Overcoming the ‘fear’ factor associated with trying new things has undoubtedly played an important part in this change.

Exploring social media
In working towards achieving my advanced level diploma, my research has led me to begin to explore social media – both the tools we can use and their practical application in business.  I have found that underlying this has been an on-going discussion about the role of the internal communications professional in this space, and how the ‘new’ social media tools fit in with the existing framework they have in place.

Arguably, lots of the research I have come across is now out-dated, talking about the ‘fear’ of using these tools– the problems and hurdles organisations might face.

How you can help
I am keen to know how other internal communicators have gone past the ‘fear’ of using social media in their organisation, have tried new things and how they are making social media fit with their existing internal communications model. What is your responsibility when it comes to effectively implementing social media channels in your organisations?
Perhaps even thinking about this question fills you with fear?

The end of IC as we know it…
The role of the internal communicator has evolved as the tools in our toolkit have done. Social media is changing the nature of communications in business and as internal communication begins to give more voice and power to employees, some argue that it spells the end for the internal communications professional as we know it. What do you think the role of the internal communicator is when it comes to using social media in your business and how do you think we can we add the most value in this space by overcoming such fears? I’d love to hear what you think and your experiences.

Thank you Sarah. As a reminder if you have case studies you are happy to share or would like to talk to Sarah about her research you can contact her at: hodgessarah@hotmail.com

Would you like to write a guest post for my blog? If so do get in touch: with me at: rach@rachmiller.com

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2  responses on Fighting fear for effective communication

Hi Sarah

I think fear is a very apt word to use when talking about the use of Social Media in Internal Communications. Senior Managers tend to take the immediate reaction of “we can’t allow people to say whatever they want, block access”. However, what are they actually blocking? Nearly everyone I know now has access to Facebook, Twitter etc through their phones and blocking access through a work PC isn’t going to stop this.

The important thing to remember is that colleagues are going to talk about work no matter what so why wouldn’t you give them an area where you can hold a small amount of control or can at least respond to what they’re saying.

At Asda, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, we have the Green Room. Colleagues are able to come onto this site and leave any opinions they have about the business. This could be commenting on an article about how we can save money through carrier bag usage, or something more serious. Obviously, we moderate all comments and if someone leaves a comment about something personal, we don’t post on the site and instead send it to the relevant person in the business to resolve.

We’ve also introduced a Facebook page which works in tandem with the Green Room. This Facebook page works in a similar way to the Green Room, however the very nature of Facebook means it’s much more open. All comments are posted before moderation and while I think that’s not a bad thing…some senior managers in the business find it the most frightening thing in the world. This is where I agree with you that the role of the IC professional is changing; part of my role now is to persuade senior managers that Social Media is a useful tool for Communication and to show them the best way to use it.

As someone who looks after Social Media for Internal Communications, I find my role is now about managing the ‘fear’. There are people in the business at both ends of the spectrum in terms of Social Media engagement and I need to find a middle ground. We’re never going to be in a place where we post everything on Facebook, but at the same time we shouldn’t just delete everything that isn’t positive. Senior Managers always fear things they don’t fully understand, that’s why I’ve taken time to explain to the senior team at Asda what Social Media is and how to use it. Of course in a retail environment, everything comes down to sales and within Internal Comms we don’t have much ability to influence that.

However the argument I use is that Social Media helps to engage colleagues and make them feel like an important part of the business no matter where they work. This engagement isn’t just shown in the digital world, it’s also shown when they go out onto the shop floor and talk to customers. If a customer talks to an engaged colleague who clearly has a passion for the business then they’re more likely to come back time after time and spend more money. So, while Social Media can’t directly increase sales, it can help colleagues become an advocate for the business which in the long run will do the same thing.

  • Sarah

  • 10 April 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thanks for your thoughts Steve. Really interesting that your role is now managing the ‘fear’ in senior leaders. I have come across several internal communicators who find themselves in a similar situation – but they see it as more of a battle I think, rather than a chance to educate and engage them in the tools.

Perhaps this is where we can add the most value. I think it is so important for internal communicators to manage both the expectations and fears of their leadership teams when they implement new social media tools and channels.

Perhaps this means that the role of the internal communicaor now is to become better and more confident at using these tools as well, so that we can better advise our leaders.

I wonder if anyone else has come across similar situations in their workplace?

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