7 Reasons Why Internal Comms Is the Toughest Kind

Insights from Jonathan Erwin, CEO of Red e App.

We all know how challenging the act of getting a client’s message out to the public can be. But what about conveying that message internally?

A recent survey found that tech and healthcare employees make for poor “brand advocates”, and faulty internal networks are at least partly to blame for leaving staffers unprepared to discuss their own companies.

A new survey conducted by messaging app maker Red e App called upon several top PR personalities to discuss the challenges of keeping things straight within your organization. CEO Jonathan Erwin spoke to us about the survey and the current state of internal communications, which closely resembles this cartoon:

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First, some key takeaways from PR influencers involved in the project.

Peter Shankman, author of Zombie Loyalistswrites:

“Internal communications (or lack thereof) isn’t a communications problem nor is it a technology issue. It’s a trust issue that permeates the company; if the company as a whole is afraid to trust its employees, it simply can’t evolve.”

From Gini Dietrich, author of Spin Sucks:

“Unfortunately, a majority of executives think the best way to run a business is to not tell their teams anything, which leads to speculation and rumors.”

What’s the solution? Erwin tells us that the survey came about because “the words ‘comms’ and ‘engagement’ are boring…a million people have best practices and buzzwords but nothing tangible.”

Many share the same sort of problems when receiving some form of internal memo:

“Is this required reading? Does it demand action? Is it applicable to my actual job? This survey is about being a better, more effective communicator in general.”

Here are the points we discussed.

1. Tech is not always helpful:

“Technology can hurt communications for a specific work force: when people have chat, email, social, and other internal tools, that’s a million channels going at once. But chat is too invasive and email is too busy [for official communications.]”

2. Higher-ups often ignore employees:

“Executives ignore employee communications. C-suites see it as non-essential: no one says ‘internal comms will increase sales by X this year.’

Employee communications have never been measured or managed, but they’re incredibly important…and we do measure everything else.”

3. Internal comms only move in one direction:

“It’s hard to communicate broadly to a workforce. People are treated like mushrooms and comms is used to ‘instill the fear of God in them.’ It’s like a Dilbert cartoon.

We’re working with older paradigms here.”

4. “Brand Advocacy” is a tough sell:

“I think the concept of ‘brand advocates’ is incredibly cheesy…people should speak up because they love their jobs.”

5. Most business leaders take their employees’ voices for granted:

“Business people (especially in tech) tend to overthink things…But we believe that employers should ‘flatten the organization’ and give people a voice to share information. It’s always better to be transparent when possible so employees don’t think they’re confined to the company box.

Recognition is the first step toward ‘advocacy.’ Just send the person a personalized message.”

6. Better software is NOT the key

“I don’t care how good the software is…the best way to foster effective internal communications is just to SPEAK to people. If they respond to posters, hang up more posters! If the company YouTube channel makes them laugh, then give them more of that.

Maybe THEN they’ll become ‘advocates.'”

7. Many aspire to create a “company-wide chatroom”

“It’s simple: connect people to one another and everything else will happen on its own. Create that single connection from employer to employee AND BACK and control/measure it.

Make it as convenient as possible for employees.”

What do we think, readers? How do we deal with internal comms challenges within our own organizations?