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. On that note, I read a great article on Ragan yesterday on ‘Four ways for communicators to earn respect‘ which is worth a read if you haven’t seen it already.

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.

Ericsson gets creative
Adam Lloyd heads up internal comms across the Mediterranean for Ericsson. He has kindly shared the Christmas video they made in 2006 which was used to bring people together and have some festive fun. You can watch the final one here but I prefer the outtakes as I think it gives you a sense of what working there is like. You can watch the outtakes at the foot of this page too. What do you make of it? Could you do something like this in your company? What would the impact be?

Adam says: “Although it was almost six years ago, it is an activity that still pops up in conversations with colleagues I have at this time of year. The beauty of it was of course that we had everyone – leaders, employees, catering staff, receptionists etc – all playing their own part but coming together as one team. This was possibly the most fun I’ve had working on an internal comms project and a great way to show the diversity of a large and geographically spread organisation.

“Flashmob and parody videos are now commonplace on YouTube and for us working in internal communications this can represent a great opportunity to engage employees through the power of video and expression of creativity. My challenge now is to innovate again with 8,000 employees across 25 countries!”

Talking of flashmobs, Ericsson featured one as part of their family fun day in Italy and you can view the footage of that here too.

Cancelling Christmas?
I tweeted that I was writing this article and appealed for comms pros to share their experiences of Christmas comms with me. Thanks to Mark Shanahan from Leapfrog Corporate Comms who sent me a link to an article he wrote about cancelling Christmas. I was shocked by its content, it’s a real cautionary tale, do have a read. I can only imagine the huge dip in morale the decisions had.  

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. 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. Talking of which, I received a huge foam hand from Involve this week which made me smile as it said ‘finger pointing may lead to disengagement’. Anyway, I digress…

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

  • 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 (as highlighted in Mark’s article above)
  • 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
  • Be creative, have fun and enjoy!
Got something to add to the list? Do let me know. If you’re planning an event do see the information sheet @theICcrowd produced based on feedback from internal comms pros via Twitter.
As promised, here is the Ericsson outtakes Christmas film – sit back with a cuppa and watch, I guarantee it will make you smile, Rachel.

Post author: Rachel Miller

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