Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Slow on the uptake

Melcrum's Source for Communicators took me aback slightly today when among Kathy Collura's five suggestions for communicators coping with employee angst she stated: Connect the employee communication plan with the external communication plan The messages about jobs, paychecks, retirement and benefits are specific to employees but these messages should be linked to the business and industry messages going to external audiences.

Hello Kathy, but where have you been this past decade? Or is this just a sign that employee comms in the US is some way behind Europe.

For all my time in Leapfrog and even before, I've dealt with issues communication - as have most of my peers around me. Today's employees are shareholders, customers and vociferous members of their employer's local community.

Even back in my corporate days we looked at issues and defined the appropriate audiences for them, cutting across the artificial internal/external boundaries.

Employee communication should never be dealt with in isolation. If it's to be credible, it has to be bound up into one seamless corporate communication plan that identifies all of the audiences to be engaged, and builds the appropriate relationships with them.

It's quite shocking that Melcrum and Collura seem only to be waking up to this now.


Mandy Thatcher said...

I couldn't agree with you more Mark. In an ideal world all employee communication would indeed be “bound up into one seamless corporate communication plan”. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this often isn’t the case – if everyone knew everything there was to know about best practice communication we’d both be out of a job!

Author and employee comms expert Roger D’Aprix makes this observation in the recent Melcrum report on “Delivering successful change communication”. He points out that as internal communication professionals we’re often not nearly well enough linked to the external aspects of the business. “My observation is that communication people have been craft people. They’ve focused on the media and content they create without understanding the business they’re part of, and more particularly the marketplace. It may be getting a bit better, but this aspect needs work and communicators must pay more attention to it.”

Linking to what’s going on externally may be obvious to some but it doesn’t mean it always happens. And I don’t think the Melcrum folks or Kathy Collura have only just woken up to this. We’re just keen to share what we’ve learned with fellow professionals who in turn are keen to improve the effectiveness of their organisation’s communication. That’s not too shocking is it?

Mark Shanahan said...

Fair point - but maybe it's worth acknowledging that a lot of your readers will know these things already - perhaps it's a matter of dressing the piece up as something like: 'For many of you, this will be second nature, but....'

The other point to consider is that as comms teams become leaner, there's less distinction between internal/external anyway - most of my clients are now doing both.