What is it like to work as a professional communicator at Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science?
What steps do you need to take to write an internal communication strategy?
You’re in the right place to discover the answers to both these questions.
Today is the eighth day in my Countdown to Christmas series. I originally published this article in July 2016.
What is it like to work in comms alongside scientists?
Nic got in touch with me recently as he was looking for advice to help him create an internal communication strategy.
I’ve published various articles on how to write an internal comms strategy since 2009, and they remain the most popular on my blog.
I asked Nic to share his experiences as a guest post for the All Things IC blog as I was fascinated by the sound of his workplace and thought you’d enjoy hearing about it too.
I’ll hand you over to him…
A non-scientist’s guide to IC for scientists
Hang in there, baby.
It’s Wednesday morning and I’m staring into my coffee cup, as if it holds the answer to a problem that I’ve been working through for the better part of a month now.
I take a sip and the question crosses my mind again.
“Internal communications…what does that mean to TRIUMF?”
I think of the cat poster next to my desk that reads “Hang in there baby”.
It’s appropriate, I think, as I take another sip of coffee.
I may not have the answers to this (yet), but this is how I began the process.
Career to date
I work at TRIUMF – Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science – as a member of the Strategic Communications team.
I got my start at TRIUMF as a co-op student, and then transitioned into a staff position within the organisation.
My current role is Strategic Communications Associate.
In this role I have been tasked to work alongside the Head of Strategic Communications to develop an internal communications strategy.
The aim is to improve communications across the lab, to strengthen internal camaraderie, and to help foster a closer-knit community.
Further reading via All Things IC: How to write an internal communication strategy.
TRIUMF employs over 500 scientists, engineers, technicians, tradespeople, students, and administrative staff throughout, spread out across multiple buildings on our site.
I want to empower people, so they empower the each other and the organisation.
In my role, how can I best leverage internal communications to create the foundation for a community?
First, I looked outward for support.
I am a true believer in not reinventing the wheel, so I actively sought out organisations and parties that, in my opinion, foster exceptional internal camaraderie and culture through communication.
It is important to search for inspiration outside your industry.
You can use that as a chance to bring in fresh ideas from other fields that can be adapted to your own.
I reached out to a leading technology company, an entertainment conglomerate, and Rachel Miller of All Things IC.
All responded quite favourably with a wealth of information. I found support.
Information and data is great, but it can be overwhelming. Tweet this
I now needed a way to organise my thoughts, sift through information, and align this information with key objectives.
To do this, I created a work breakdown structure (WBS), which is defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as a deliverable-oriented decomposition of a project into smaller components.
This technique is commonly used for engineering projects, but works perfectly for communication projects, again, it’s important to take ideas from all industries.
(Have you tried this approach? Did it work for you? Do let me know – Rachel).
To build a WBS, I suggest getting in front of a whiteboard. Draw lines and arrows to start connecting your thoughts and goals together.
The act of physically connecting the dots gave my plan structure and coherence.
This also gave me a checklist and deadlines for each task, while allowing me to make sure everything aligned with our objectives.
The work breakdown structure is the key to keeping a project plan on track and easily digestible.
I had a plan, now it was time for feedback. I held a session with colleagues to discuss the ideas from outside sources, our organisation’s goals, the project goals, and what was feasible within our timeline.
For over two hours we critiqued the policies and channels associated with the strategy and made sure each component tied back to the raîson d’être of this exercise: strengthening community through effective internal communications.
If it didn’t pass this simple test, it was altered or removed.
Here’s a version of the WBS…
Feedback is critical. You don’t always know what is working and what isn’t. Tweet this
You need fresh eyes on your project at key milestones – and when your end goal is building community, the feedback process is a part of the journey.
This progression has taken me one month.
Thanks to the WBS, we have clear goals and objectives for the plan that have kept this project on track.
The next stage involves getting feedback from broader members of the lab and our leadership team.
That feedback will parlay into another brain dump that will involve me sifting through even more information and, once again, connecting more dots.
Eventually, these dots will coalesce into a simplified document that is easy to digest and will be an anchor for our lab-wide internal communications strategy.
Seeking support, creating a WBS, and asking for candid feedback at critical milestones will help create the conditions for success.
Success will be an internal communications strategy that serves our organisation – a useful roadmap to support us in the worthwhile journey of creating a stronger, more connected community throughout our organisation.
I have five months left to build this strategy. I’m going to need a lot of coffee.
Post author: Nic Zdunich, Strategic Communications Associate, TRIUMF. Photos kindly provided by TRIUMF.
Thank you Nic. What do you think of his approach? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.
Further reading about strategy via my blog
The value of a strong employer brand strategy
Focusing on internal comms strategy
Strategy in action: The Vodafone way
How to create an IC strategy from scratch
See the Masterclasses website for more information about upcoming courses.
- Internal Communication: 24 January 2017
- Writing Skills Masterclass: 22 February 2017
- Strategic Internal Communication (for senior-level practitioners), 23 March 2017
- Internal Communication, 27 April 2017.
I’m going to leave you with this infographic to help you create an IC strategy.
It has been viewed 35,000 times on SlideShare. Thirty five thousand. Wow.
First published on the All Things IC blog 22 July 2016. Republished 8 December 2016.