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Why IC pros need to know your employees

How well do you know your organisation?

What are your relationships like inside your company?

Regular readers of my blog will know I believe as professional communicators it’s our business to know our business. That includes having fantastic working relationships at all levels of an organisation.

Today I have a guest post for you by Caroline Elgood. She’s an in-house IC Manager who says after falling into IC, she’s still loving it six years later. You can follow her on Twitter @Kaz_Elgood or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Curiosity is a wonderful trait for internal communicators to have. It features in the Institute of Internal Communication’s profession map and is a vital mindset for professional communicators.

I’ll hand you over to Caroline…

Text: Why IC pros need to get to know your employees

Knowing your people and why it matters

Right person, right time, right message via the right channel – an internal communicator’s job is easy, right?

Well, by the time the project has been pushed back twice and you’re on version three of the message, how you’re actually going to communicate it can fall by the wayside.

While the project being delayed or everybody having their say is a given – getting the message out so it’ll be read, understood and actioned is crucial. We’ve all heard, “Just stick it on the intranet,” or a popular one pre-covid was “Put up a poster!”

This is why, as an IC pro, knowing who you’re talking to is so important. Now, audience mapping, especially for a large, complex organisation is no easy task. But it’s absolutely worth all the time you spend on it. After all, it’s no good sending emails to people who don’t open them, just like it’s no use ‘sticking it on the intranet’ if people can’t access it!

How can you get started?
It’s likely that your friends in HR will have information about who your people are, their demographics and where they sit in the business. IT will be able to tell you which tools they use – is Teams use high? Maybe Yammer is getting hits, but the Intranet isn’t?

Can you find out when most people are likely to read your comms? For example, we know that 4pm on a Friday isn’t a great time – but for some it might be just as they start their shift which is the perfect time. Some businesses might also have a goldmine of information like the latest employee survey results, insight into how people are feeling, absence rates, performance rates – the list goes on.

It’s useful detail like this that can help you dig deeper and paint a true picture of your people.

A lot of data can feel overwhelming, but it’ll make the difference. The good news is many of us are already using data to our advantage. Gallagher’s 2021 State of the Sector survey found that 55% of us use it to tailor content for different audiences – but this means 45% aren’t.

Is data enough alone?
The stats will give you a good idea of what’s going on. But I’d ask the question is data alone is enough? Once you know the facts (or if there’s a reason you can’t get them) then there’s nothing better than getting out there and talking to people.

If time isn’t on your side, pick 10 people from different business areas, and spend 10 minutes asking them open questions. Questions like “What are your thoughts? What do you read? How could we improve our comms?”. By the end of that hour and a half or so you will be armed with brilliant insight. If you’ve got more time and can run focus groups, then even better.

I’ve even doorstepped my colleagues while they were out in the field! “Hello – tell me what you think of our comms.”

On one occasion, his face told me everything and he went on to say that if his manager hadn’t told him, then he didn’t need to know. After chatting to more people in this business area I soon understood that changes could be made to improve the comms.

You’ll find people are generally keen to talk to you and this insight can be very telling. They often won’t hold back in letting you know how they feel and what it really is that they’re listening to.

You need to be realistic, but even if you’re a team of one is there anybody who could help you get some opinions from across the business?

I can’t stress enough how (really) knowing your audiences and what makes them tick can supercharge your comms.

There’s also a potential time-saving aspect because you can focus on making the channels that are working the best they can be. Having stats in your back pocket isn’t a one-trick pony. They can also help strengthen your case when having those trickier conversations with stakeholders.

Knowledge is power. When you know your audiences well, you can fine-tune how you share your message, you should see a boost in people actioning your comms. Measurement, however, is a topic for another day.

Post author: Caroline Elgood.

I hope you found this article helpful. What are you taking away from it? You’re welcome to comment below or find Caroline on Twitter @Kaz_Elgood .

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Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel.

First published on the All Things IC blog 29 November 2021.

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