Six tips for managing internal communication
September 4, 2008
You need 360 degree feedback when managing communications projects.
I’ve been a PR flack for three decades.* I know this work inside and out, and I’m even getting up to speed when it comes to some of the newer communications technologies being embraced by our field (because they are being embraced by our stakeholders).
But I have to admit that sometimes I realize during a communications campaign that the most basic communications — that with the internal stakeholders — has been insufficiently nurtured.
Learning the hard way. My office is currently working on a project that has mutiple players: admin staff, program staff, various managers, outside consultants and, of course, our constituents — the folks for whom we are doing this project. The program staff has done an outstanding job of finding out what our constituents want in the way of an interactive communications vehicle.
All of the staff involved in the execution of the project, some who started the project and have left the organization and some who have more recently come on board, have put a lot of love and care and professional know-how into making it relevant and useful for the constituents.
But I learned earlier this week that we — I — did not create enough opportunities along the way for the entire group to regularly check-in on the project’s progress. The project is quite salvageable. It may even turn out better than I initially thought it might — with more bells and whistles — and value for users.
But getting to Gilead will be harder than it had to be, because the internal communication was not managed as well as it could have, should have been.
What have I learned/relearned?
- Put it in writing: I have created a form (I know, stuffy but it works!) that we usually use when the communications team sits down with our internal clients. It outlines the project’s goals and scope, the needs of the various constituencies (including internal ones), the roles and responsibilities of staff and a timetable for progress. Put all of this information in writing even if the players are close colleagues.
- Be clear about the decision-making process. Work out who provides input and who has final decision-making responsibility and authority.
- Provide regular written updates. Chart it, graph it, use narrative, even go for Visio or Gliffy (free!). Just make sure everyone involved receives regular updates in writing.
- Schedule regular project team meetings. These provide opportunities to discuss changed goals, technical snags, shifting priorities and any bumps in the road. It also gives you a sense, as a team, of what you are accomplishing.
- Immediately flag any problems. Don’t wait for the weekly update or meeting. Make sure everyone on your team has a chance to weigh in and is aware of each other’s position.
- Avoid unilateral or bilateral communications that make changes on the “fly.” Confused? See # 3 and 4 above.
Other suggestions? I’d love to see them, because I want to make sure this communications veteran has no more memory lapses when it comes to remembering just how important good internal communication is to a solid institutional communications program.
PS — I’ll let you know how we do with our project.
* I was just a babe (a term used rather inappropriately, I believe, by a delegate Wednesday night to describe a certain pol) when I started. ;-)