Using internal comms to connect with communities

How does your company connect with its communities, be that your employees, stakeholders or people in your area? How do you inform and educate your workforce about internal communications? Monmouthshire County Council, which is in Wales, has developed an innovative scheme and Communications Officer Jessica Roberts writes about it here for readers of Diary of an internal communicator.

Jessica was awarded the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Local Public Service’s Young Communicator of the Year Award in 2011 and says her passion is for internal comms and brand management. She has just started her own blog, which I’ve added to my blogroll, but has written for mine to give us an insight into what she’s been working on. Over to you Jessica…

Using internal communications to connect with our communities
In Monmouthshire, we are experiencing a lot of the same problems as other organisations. Money is tight, demands for services are increasing and what people think of us can change in an instant. Nothing unusual for a county council. What is unusual is the way we’ve decided to tackle this.

As part of Nesta’s Creative Councils campaign, we devised Your County Your Way. I don’t want to define it as a project because that would suggest that there’s an end date. It’s more than that. It’s about who we are, what we do and why we do it. It’s about proving our worth and relevance to the communities we serve and shaping our services around their needs. We’re transforming our culture so that we start to listen and respond to our communities more effectively. And to do that, we’re working from the inside out.

Shifting perspective
At the heart of this culture change is the Intrapreneurship School – an internal training scheme open to all staff, that encourages innovation, understanding and shifts our perspective to focus on what really matters, as defined by our communities. The school celebrates individuality, promotes cross-team working and most significantly, puts trust in our colleagues. Trust to make the right decisions without having to feed-up the chain of command. Hierarchy? What’s that?

It’s a pretty radical programme, and some would shy away from it, but we think it’s necessary. We can only be excellent if we foster excellence and that starts with trust.

A trusted workforce is a valued workforce; a passionate, dedicated bank of people who are ready to contribute to your organisation’s success. Ready to make a difference.

So, why have we started with internal communications? Well, that’s easy. We can’t tell our story outside if we don’t ‘get it’ inside. And, as I tried to put my thoughts in order, a bit of a chain of events started to emerge. See the diagram on this page and my explanation below.

  1. Using internal comms we can promote understanding amongst our colleagues.
  2. Aligning our colleagues expectations with organisational expectations fosters positive behaviour/culture change
  3. This change has a positive effect on the day job. We do things better
  4. Providing a better service means that our customers/communities are more satisfied. Brand perception improves
  5. Both parties start to feel more valued and we begin to listen to each other more effectively
  6. We are connecting with each other. We are having conversations. Really engaging
  7. We begin to work together.

And that’s what it’s all about.

Tips for IC pros implementing massive change:

  • Be honest: Radical change is scary and that’s ok. We need to acknowledge our fears before we can really move on. And, giving people permission to be scared is usually enough to quell the fear
  • Be transparent: Don’t try and avoid the awkward stuff. I’m a firm believer in facing it head-on, answering any questions and if I don’t know the answer then I’m happy to say that too. Dodging issues is a sure-fire way of killing any trust your colleagues had in you
  • Believe in the change: This is not always easy. Sometimes we are asked to do things that we don’t wholeheartedly believe in but we have to do it anyway. It’s our job. If you find yourself in this position, take a moment to understand the merits of the scheme. Think about why it’s necessary and use that as your focus. You can’t expect others to jump on the train if you won’t.

Further reading
If you’re interested in the idea of the Intrapreneurship School keep an eye on my blog. We’re in the early days so there’s a lot ahead and, I’m sure, many lessons to learn.

Post author: Jessica Roberts

Thank you for giving us a glimpse into this initiative Jessica, I like the model and particularly your advice for working through change. What do you think of what she’s written? Would something like this work for your company? You can tweet me @AllthingsIC or comment below, Rachel.

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