An open letter to internal communicators: Forget being in the band, comms is the whole show!
Dear internal communications professionals,
I’m one of the co-founders and CEO of Yapster, a (relatively) new instant messaging platform for mobile workers. We’re proud to work with several of the UK’s best-known retailers and hospitality companies. Sometimes we’re brought into an organisation by the Communications team, but often as not it’s the CEO, HR or Operations lead. Almost always we’re asked to deploy Yapster in order to help the executive and his or her peers affect a specific business objective - “we want to lower staff turnover”, or “we need to increase in-store sales”.
I enjoyed attending last week’s CIPR Inside ‘Making your Internal Communications Count’ conference so much I immediately joined the CIPR as an affiliate. I’m really eager to learn from you all - as my colleagues and I have realised that our technology performs far better for our Executive Sponsors when we have a specialist communications team or adviser sitting alongside us. Let me explain why.
In large-scale organisations, communication is the primary means by which a leader achieves business goals. Without the ability to communicate strategy and tactics beyond immediate colleagues, a senior executive is literally irrelevant. A leader without a voice is no leader at all. But communicating at scale is an art and, even with the power of Yapster at your disposal, campaigns and messaging remain important.
At the conference a recurring theme was the difficulty comms pros face in distinguishing between causation and correlation (“employee engagement seems to have gone up since we launched our newsletter, but the HR department launched several initiatives at the same time”). From my perspective this feels like a phoney war. You can’t have true engagement without meaningful action. Communications can turn a good idea into a great one, but doing it for its own sake will not build a stronger organisation.
It occurs to me that perhaps the problem lies with management teams, who fail to appreciate the super powers a high quality comms function gives them. As a guy trying to build a business and hold a growing team together, I find it impossible to separate comms from day to day leadership.
It’s sometimes easier to appreciate the value of something when it’s absent. For instance, imagine Mick Jagger on stage trying to rock Wembley stadium with no music and no microphone. Are you now picturing an embarrassing dad, dancing, too? :)
I personally don’t think it matters whether executives see their comms leaders as “in the band” or “just” part of the crew. In either case, their personal effectiveness is 100% dependent upon their ability to communicate. In my view, the value of comms is always equal to the total value of management output.
To me you are all rock stars, so please don’t lose sight of the fact that comms is the whole show.