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The Internal Communicator’s Dilemma: Where Do I Start?

Recently, an internal communicator reached out for advice on a situation she was facing at her workplace. The case sounded intriguing because she joined a globally recognized brand and the opportunities were promising. I felt there may be other communicators who face similar issues in their respective organizations, and we could all gain from sharing experiences.

Here is the situation. Names of organizations and people are anonymized.

 An organization hires an internal communicator to join and be part of the business team’s communication unit.  The organization already has a broader communications team but their focus is on the overall aspects of the company. Businesses within the organization are left to create their own teams and drive results. The business unit leader has expectations from the internal communicator to present the business as a respected and high performing entity and to manage executive messaging. Yet, to manage communications for the business unit, there needs to be partnership to create messages and use existing company channels which are governed by the broader team.  Here is Jane, the internal communicator confiding in her mentor to seek guidance. Reflect on the case and share your perspectives to help Jane overcome her situation.

Jane: “Hello James, I am so glad you could make the time. I need to discuss an issue I am facing”.

James: “It is always a pleasure Jane. Tell me what’s troubling you? You joined a new firm recently, right?”

Jane: “Yes, that’s right. I was excited by the prospects considering this firm is well known and it gives me opportunities to demonstrate my skills and capabilities in internal communications”.

James: “So then, what’s stopping you?”

Jane: “Well, I feel like I am between the Devil and the Deep Sea! I want to do great work for the unit but the organization’s structure and communication approach isn’t clear to me.”

James: “Tell me more. What makes you feel that way?”

Jane: “I am hired to be the internal communicator for a business unit. The organization is structured differently. The broader communications team led strategic messaging and then the business unit leaders have their own communications to look after. Capacity is an issue. I have been asked to only manage the business unit communications. The broader team doesn’t have capacity to manage business unit communications. Not all channels can be directed at all staff”.

James: “So, how does it prevent you from doing what you need to do? Are you aware of the expectations of the business unit leader?”

Jane: “I have met the leader and he expects me to raise the profile of his unit and nothing else. The company intranet has only global content and there is no effort to include any local content and no access is even given to host local information. They do have an enterprise social network and e-mail as channels of communications. The business unit head does town halls and his directs does their town halls and the messages often overlap.  Employees seem to be overwhelmed. I have been asked not to reach out to employees yet, because I am new to the organization!”

James: “That’s odd. How does it work for the organization? Isn’t the organization losing if some teams can’t get the information they need, at a place and time they can access and make sense of content?”

Jane: That’s true. It isn’t easy and that’s my predicament. I want to do my work and to the best of my ability. I feel I am caught between the broader agenda and the business leader’s plans. Where and how do I get started?”

James: “Yes, that isn’t easy. I suggest you give this some thought before diving in the commitments at work”.

Jane is confused as to where to begin.

  • Does she align with the global team or does she focus on her business unit communications?
  • How does she know the state of communications?
  • How must she approach the busines unit head’s messaging?
  • What can she do and what are her first steps?

Do share your thoughts here.

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