“Are you really suggesting that we use external media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate key engagement messages on organisational change?”
That was the question I asked Rich Pirrotta, MD of the Whitehall Group following his session entitled “You’ve got organisational change – What’s the right approach for the Social Media Strategy?” Rich was one of 16 experienced presenters featured on a two day virtual conference on Social Media and Employee Communications sponsored by the Institute of Human Resources.
I appreciate that we, internal communicators, should act on the assumption that anything communicated internally is likely to be ‘shared’ externally.
I could also see the logic of leveraging the social media channels that people use most frequently outside of work.
Nevertheless I struggled to imagine being able to ‘sell’ this strategy to my senior leadership team and thought I may have misinterpreted Rich’s proposition….. which I had, slightly.
Rich responded to my question by confirming that he was indeed proposing that key engagement messages on organisational change could be communicated using these external media channels …. but at the right phase in the change journey.
This referred back to an earlier part of his presentation when he took us through Conner Partners’ depiction of the stages of the change journey – Preparation, Acceptance, Commitment – that included some interesting insights into the different reasons why you might ‘lose’ some of your target audience at various milestones along the way. Rich’s assessment of how and when to include external social media channels on the change journey was as follows:
“During the preparation phase, when people are just learning about the change, internal channels are best. As the change starts to take root in the adoption and commitment phases, I believe that a solid social media strategy should be integrated with the overall communications plan for the change.”
Rich’s final point was that, when adding external channels into an IC plan, you “….need to be intentional about the messaging, but I believe it is a powerful and visible complement to just internal tools.”
This highlights another benefit of this approach. As Rich said in his presentation, sometimes our employees are our worst social media enemies. At times this is intentional arising from a genuine sense of grievance and disengagement, but frequently it’s simply a random remark in an inappropriate forum. By making external channels part of your change communication strategy, you need to be very sure that your employees are aware of the power of the medium, their role as company ambassadors and the trust being placed in them.