Comms in a nutshell

nutshellHow do you describe corporate communication to people who have never encountered it before? Do you quote reams of statistics about how it can boost motivation, help retention and generally increase productivity of your workforce, or do you let people discover for themselves by providing effective two-way channels and let the benefits unfold?

I’m mulling this over at the moment as I’m about to start a new role as Head of Communications in a new organisation that hasn’t had a comms function before but has recognised the need to have one. Employee survey results from the past two years have shown employees have a real hunger for communication and one of the ways the company has responded is through appointing me.

I popped into the office for one day before my holiday (am starting properly on 11 August) and started to talk with employees to really understand what the current state of play is and what perceptions of communication are in the organisation. It’s fascinating stuff going into a business where they have no benchmark and a relatively blank canvas for me to start populating.

What are your experiences? In my experience I think there are different types of employees when it comes to corporate communication – those who think they can ‘do’ it themselves and merrily create posters using rainbow Word art and don’t think brand guidelines apply to them (and think you are the ‘comms police’ who exist to spoil their ‘fun’), those who want to see the ROI and measurable business benefits, curious and eager employees who are keen to get involved and help out, and the downright sceptical on comms who prefer to say ‘no one told me’ – even though there is a pile of magazines on their desk, newsletters in their inbox and face-to-face meetings declined in their calendar.

It’s healthy to have this mix of experiences and views; it makes life extremely interesting and constantly challenges comms professionals and tests their flexibility and grit. You do want employees to get involved – that’s the point after all, but I think you need to coax them along the same path.

I think the best way to describe corporate communication is by doing – allowing employees to experience the benefits for themselves and ask questions along the way, and being mindful of those who want the hard facts and ensure you address their needs too.

In my view a good place to get to is for employees to see the value for themselves, where they want to get actively involved and take it on themselves to cascade their team briefings and make it relevant. But this doesn’t happen overnight and there will inevitably be a few rogue posters along the way. Interesting times ahead…

Let me know your thoughts- what have you found works well, what challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?


  1. Mark Darby says:

    Great post Katie

    We have been facing the same challenges here in Abu Dhabi, where we have not only been setting up a internal comms unit from scratch, but an entire corporate communications department.

    Frequently the same question – haven’t needed one for nearly 40 years. Why now?

    Have ditched the textbook, official, supported by stats and research answer – and gone for something more basic. The right internal communications can potentially help the company make more money because it gives you a competitive edge and is too much of a risk not to do it. In an increasingly competitive world, you must give employees a clear sense of direction, develop their sense of pride and support their work by sharing the right information.

    All we have to do now is prove it!

    Good luck with the new job Rachel.


  2. Christina says:

    We are also in the process of creating ‘official’ internal communications. We’re in the midst of working through our goals, strategies, and tactics. I’m looking forward to reading about you do this in your new job. Maybe we can learn from each other along the way.

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