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5 Traps that Internal Communicators Must Avoid

While driving business outcomes and improving organizational performance through the delivery of an effective internal communications strategy there are instances when the employee communicator is asked seemingly innocuous questions and requests. Unless tackled head-on and tactfully, these requests can derail the team from doing what is right for the business. For starters, here are a few potential traps that internal communicators must learn to decode and stay on course.

1.      There is a niggling business issue. Can we call the communication team to resolve it?

The trap: Communication is not a silver bullet that overcomes bad decisions and poor practices. No amount of communication will change perceptions or create engagement when the basics are flawed.

The recommendation: Explaining why the communication team exists and needs to be involved early in the process can reduce unwanted requests. By playing the role of a strategic counsel, up-skilling business leaders on the nuances of effective communication can empower them to preempt issues that the team needs to manage downstream.

2.      No one knows me well enough as a leader inside the organization. Can you help create my internal image?

The trap: Often leaders assume that the internal communications team is there to build their personal reputation and brand. These requests are unhealthy and can drain the team’s energy and dilute the value the function delivers.

The recommendation: Helping leaders understand the role of the team and that the team is not set-up to create personal images can reduce unnecessary expectations. Yes, there are specific spokespersons who may get more attention when it comes to media engagement, for example. The communication team isn’t equipped to build ‘larger-than-life’ personalities of leaders. Instead, it exists to help leaders come across as real and authentic – warts and all! It might help to share examples of how the team can pitch in to solve business needs.

3.      The internal channel is misused. Can you police it?

The trap: Be it the enterprise social network or the employee app, there can be instances when conversations on the channel are construed as ‘anti-organization’. It does not mean that employees have turned rogue. It can be possible they are unaware of their actions or implications.

The recommendation: It is in fact a good sign when there are comments which go against the grain – one of openness and free speech that gives insights on underlying issues that need addressing. Policing isn’t the role of the communications team. The team is meant to facilitate conversations, challenge the status quo, communicate guidelines and build a culture of free and open communication that fuels positive connections. Getting in the way of how employees use channels to convey opinions and perspectives will only hurt internal credibility and limit commitment. Giving the channel owners guidance and support to curate conversations and self-moderate discussions can help the organization benefit from knowledge sharing.

4.      We aren’t making progress and haven’t communicated with stakeholders for a while. Can we send out a mailer?

The trap: From company training to business events, there is a lot expected from staff to understand and act on. Not all communication will get through at the first instance. In addition, not everyone will be on board the first time they receive messages. Sending out more and more communication, does not result in increased awareness and action. A mailer without any context or to fill ‘silence’ spaces in the communication stream will not serve any good.

The recommendation: Communication will not solve issues of indifference, lack of manager ownership or poor articulation of messages. If there is inaction or lack of understanding then it helps to go back to the drawing board and revisit your plans. Consider seeking feedback and tweaking your communication to make it more effective.

5.      You only serve leadership needs.  What about our team’s requests?

The trap: Everyone will want the support of the communication team. It may not always be possible to give undivided attention to all requests. Usually, the communication team is small and with limited resources. Therefore, when key priorities are served, some requests may be relegated.

The recommendation: Rather than be perceived as ‘unhelpful’ and ‘elitist’, the communication team can build strong networks of ‘power’ users of communication and empower them to raise the bar inside the organization. They can be the ‘extended’ that checks and balances requests that stakeholders have. Communicate the team’s priorities and uplift the understanding of what the team can do to consult the team. In addition, how stakeholders can manage with ‘self-help’ tools and resources.

Knowing when some requests can come in the way of your work is the first step in gaining control over your priorities and managing your reputation as an internal communicator.

Know of other traps that communicators can avoid? Do share them here.

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