Keep calm… it’s internal comms

I like the keep calm posters.  There I’ve said it. There’s something about the design that makes me smile, and I’m interested in the history behind it. There was a keep calm and carry on poster in the labour ward of the hospital I was in four months ago, just before my daughter was born, which I thought was either a cruel joke or a stroke of genius. I’m still undecided which.

When it comes to internal comms, IC pros can often find themselves in positions where panic could rise. Last minute change project, crisis situation or shortened deadline anyone? So for us, I’ve designed my own one (pictured).

From talking to people within my network, the biggest cause for fear and panic at the moment is social media. People seem genuinely concerned about the variety of options, the cost in terms of time, resources and effort, knowing what’s best for their organisation and whether in fact they need to do it. It’s internal comms, but not as we know it.

Keep calm and think it through
Or is it? My advice to anyone considering introducing social media within their organisation is to approach it in exactly the same way you would any other change programme or channel; with careful thought, planning and research. Keep calm and think it through.

Last week I published an article on how to create an internal comms strategy and guided you through the areas you need to consider when setting your strategy. My advice is to ensure you know the answers to those questions before you introduce social media.

If you don’t know how your organisation communicates, and I should hope you do if you’re an IC pro, then you are starting off on the back foot. What is the management style? Do you have formalised, hierarchical communication or does it flow across silos?

If you have a hierarchical top-down comms culture, do you think introducing a collaborative social network will be successful and change your culture overnight? Honestly? If your senior managers are the ‘turn off the comments on the intranet’ kind, how do you think a recommendation for Yammer or Chatter will go down?

I keep reading ‘social media isn’t rocket science’ agreed. It isn’t, but it has the potential to be as explosive, particularly if it goes wrong.

So what’s the answer? I’m currently undertaking research for a number of speaking engagements and book contributions I’ve got coming up. Based on everything I know to be true and have researched, here are some of my top tips for introducing social media within an organisation.

They don’t take into account scenarios like employees creating their own social networks outside of Comms’ ‘control’ – gosh the notion of control is another article in itself, but will hopefully help steer you in the right direction. I’d love to know your thoughts – what are your top tips for other comms pros? What has worked for you or even better, what didn’t?

If you’re brave enough to share your lessons learned with me, I’d love to read them. Do get in touch  and let me know. I’m yet to come across a case study that says ‘we got it spectacularly wrong – don’t do x,y,z’ but would love to read or write one. Don’t be shy.

So, for now, here are some tips if you’re on the verge of thinking about introducing or reviewing social media for internal comms in your company. I could share many more, but this should set you on your way:

  • Know how your organisation communicates (see above)
  • Identify what you want to achieve through social media – what action are you trying to drive?
  • Know your audience and ask your experts – your employees, for their views
  • Research, research, research: know what’s available on the market before choosing the right tool for the job
  • Gather your allies and work with other departments before introducing anything new. Who do you need to share your vision? Everyone will have a point of view – whose do you need to seek?
  • Where are the power sources e.g. networks of union reps or administrators in your organisation? – are those employees bought in to the idea?
  • Talk to other Comms pros to see what has worked for them
  • Define how you are going to measure success
  • Evaluate your channels and decide if you are going to retire one before introducing something new
  • Ensure you integrate social media into your comms plans and strategies so they work together
  • You can’t just dip a toe, you have to dunk the whole body and commit wholeheartedly
  • Think long term as social media isn’t a quick fix and if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail (as someone once said), so consider whether a social media policy is right for your company
  • Things to think through: how or will you use social media to communicate with employees, with customers and/or stakeholders? How will you use it in a crisis? How will you mitigate potential risks?
  • Test your theories, e.g. run pilots with small numbers of employees and demonstrate that you are flexible and willing to adapt and evolve your plan based on their feedback
  • Enjoy!

If you want to read more about my thoughts on using social media for internal comms and employee engagement, you can in Share This, the social media handbook for PR professionals. I’m going to be speaking at the Facebook hub next week alongside some of my fellow Share This authors as part of Social Media Week, so I look forward to seeing you there if you’re going.

So, keep calm, it’s internal comms. Yes it’s social media, but it’s comms. And you know how to do that…. Rachel.


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