Internal Communication Ownership Stakeholder Management

Managing the Internal Communicator’s ‘Ownership’ Conundrum

Often internal communicators are requested or solicited to ‘own’ programs which may not be within their remit or purview. Saying Yes can result in unnecessary workload and distraction from key priorities. Say No can result in angst and friction among stakeholders. Swaying too much on either side of the spectrum has its benefits and downsides. Do too much and you can get your team feeling overwhelmed by numerous more jobs. Doing too less can result in frustrated stakeholders. Taking a middle path is ideal although that isn’t an easy approach to take considering the dynamics of the workplace and other expectations at play. So, what must internal communicators to avoid this conundrum?

Here are a few approaches which can reduce heartburn and dilute the team’s focus from driving strategic initiatives that add value and create momentum inside and beyond the organization. It is firstly important to understand that communications as a topic is subjective. Unless the communicator has established strong credentials internally and externally, it is an uphill task to gain respect and engagement from stakeholders.

Consider this – does the Finance team do your tax filings or do you do it on your own based on guidelines they provide? Does the HR team manage how you engage your colleagues and review their performance, or do you do with guidance from their end? So, why can’t the communicator also empower stakeholders be equipped to manage their own communications through resources and coaching? The communicator has the onus of taking responsibility to establish protocols and rules of engagement.

  • It is important to address the issue upstream and early enough to avoid heartburn and misaligned expectations with stakeholders as the communicator progresses in his or her career and role.  Which means setting expectations, delineating boundaries, sharing your plan and coopting stakeholders.
  • Next, you need to conduct outreach sessions to empower power users and stakeholders of communication to manage their own messaging. Especially, on writing standards, creating a communications plan, using influence at work and leveraging research led insights among others Communications doesn’t mean only communicators have to do it. Every employee, according to the Arthur Page Society’s principles, is active in some form or the other in public relations and therefore must be empowered to engage stakeholders.
  • Lastly, calling out the ways of working probably through a RAPID, a framework developed by Bain and Co. can help clarify who leads, who provides inputs, who signs off and who implements. 

The intricate dance of engagement with stakeholders is never easy. There are basics and essentials which need to be established before the communicator and the function will be taken seriously.

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