Chasing the rainbow?

rainbowI came across a description for a 6 month Head of Internal Communications maternity cover role recently and listed under the key responsibilities section it had:

“Benchmark against industry best practice to raise internal communications capabilities to world-class standards.”

If I was contemplating putting myself forward for this role, I wondered how I would demonstrate my credentials in this area. I began to wonder how, short of participating in a Melcrum or Towers Watson benchmarking survey, do I determine the criteria that might credibly represent ‘industry best practice’ or the definition of ‘world-class standards’?

The conclusion I reached was that I don’t believe there are such things as ‘industry best practice’ or ‘world class standards’ in internal communications.

From working with a broad cross section of organisations over the past 10 years and from attending a number of internal communications knowledge sharing events, I’ve reached the following conclusions:

  • One size doesn’t fit all: every organisation is at different stages of its evolutionary cycle, further complicated by the stage of evolutionary cycle of the marketplace it operates in. Even putting technology capability to one side, what works brilliantly in one organisation may clash horribly with the culture in another and deliver the exact opposite results.
  • Innovation for innovation’s sake is never a good idea: I accept that we are all likely to be operating in highly pressurised, distracting environments, with lots of noise competing for our audiences’ attention. You might expect that our audiences’ interest will only be caught if we mimic the external environment, where new and ingenious ways of capturing attention are being launched at us every day. Nonetheless, I believe you need to find the tools and mechanisms that match the cultural norms of your organisation and allow them time to bed in and achieve traction. Continuity can provide all sorts of benefits, not least to track adoption rates, to monitor engagement levels, and to reserve the appeal of innovation for when you’ll reap the most benefits.
  • You don’t need to be fancy to be award winning: I think that anyone who has ever judged a competition has been surprised at how a well applied conventional solution can deliver better results than a more adventurous option. One organisation I experienced recently had no social media channels, a very restricted internal communications infrastructure and, as a result, a communications approach that was almost exclusively all push, with little opportunity for dialogue. Their award winning campaign in 2012 was a variation of a very common theme but the breadth of application, its fit with their brand platform and its inclusiveness across the entire organisation put it in a class apart.Did they deserve the award? Absolutely.

    Do they in any way embody world class internal communications? Absolutely not.

Internal communication practitioners are generally a creative bunch, adept at finding ways to cut through the clamour to get important messages heard. But creativity that is out of step with the culture and the environment is worse than useless, which is why I argue that there is no standard template for world class internal communications.


About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Culture, Internal communications, Success factors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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