Everybody needs to vent sometimes.
You need an outlet.
A platform to share your woes, commiserate with other professionals, and find solutions.
So for our final webinar of 2017, we decided to give communicators a platform to do just that.
Inspired by the famous Seinfeld Festivus episode, we organized a seasonally-appropriate, live and interactive event, where internal communicators could vent about the things that really got under their skin.
On December 13th, Chuck Gose and an exemplary cast of internal comms specialists from across the globe gathered to air their internal comms grievances and participate in our first live ChuckChats Festivus Edition.
The result was pure catharsis.
We figured you could use your share of catharsis, and perhaps a little perspective to take with you into the new year. Find solace in know you are not alone in your internal comms frustrations while we recap the top 7 grievances from our Festivus webinar.*
7. Lack of appreciation for internal comms
Appreciation isn't about gift baskets and pats on the back.
Appreciation starts with understanding and respecting what internal communicators do, and trusting them to do their jobs well. But, it is all too common to have communicators steam-rolled by last-minute communications and out-of-touch stakeholders.
Here’s what Rita Zonius, Director of The Enterprise Social Engineer, had to say:
“Because we're in the digital age, I'm going to call this CaaS (comms as a service). It’s the idea that comms is just available on tap for people, on demand whenever they need it, whenever they feel like it.
Leaders don’t really have skin in the game because it's something that's being developed for them by someone else... I still feel no matter how far we come in internal communications that we still have a big job to do to help leaders appreciate that they really need to have skin in the game and be their genuine authentic selves, and not outsource everything to the very clever communications person.”
Elisabeth Wang, Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations at Piedmont Healthcare, had a similar grievance:
“Communications is not the job of one team or person. I think that far too often, when the call from our client comes and they have a communication problem, they want us to solve it for them, when they can definitely solve it themselves.”
Sharyn Nerenberg, Director of Employee Engagement and Communications at BroadSoft, also weighed in:
"People think that sending an email is communication, and if I come back and recommend additional follow-up, they'll say, well we already sent an email on that, so therefore we have communicated.”
Even our audience members Jill and Christine had some grievances to air about lack of appreciation for internal comms.
They said their biggest internal comms grievances were:
“Engineers, product managers, salespeople, whoever, who think they communicate better than professionals. The point is, some do, but also some don't.”
“Teams waiting until the last second to loop in internal comms when they want their projects communicated to the organization.”
6. Bad writing & endless content reviews
All communicators hate bad writing.
Our panel was no exception.
Sharyn was the first to call out bad writing and strategy:
“Another grievance that I'd like to add is the length of these communications... I was at a conference recently, a very small conference of internal communicators, and they were talking about how some of their internal communications routinely reach 900 to 1000 words per piece. Nobody is reading those communications, people. Nobody is reading your novels. You've got to shorten the communications if we want to get those messages across to our audience.”
Our audience was also quick to jump in, saying that they couldn’t stand it when people think like writers, not like readers, and end up writing really bad content.
And everyone on the panel felt the pain of the audience member that said their biggest grievance was when really good content goes through so many reviews that it becomes a jargon-filled uninteresting mess of saying-a-lot-of-words-that-mean-nothing communication.
Can you hear that?
That's a million internal communicators, sighing.
5. New vs. old communication channels
Angela Sinickas, Founder of Sinickas Communications, Inc., had plenty to say about the abandonment and adoption of communication channels:
“I get really annoyed when I'm looking at discussion forums and I see people saying, you know, we just want to get rid of email and put everything on social, or we want to just blow up the internet and make it all apps.
It's like, there's not a business reason for what they're doing, it's like they just want to think that they're as current as they can be, and the intranet is a dead, old channel, or newsletters, or print even. Print is actually a really valuable channel in certain situations. I just get really annoyed when people go wanting to blow up their communication channel systems just because they're looking to do something new rather than what's going to work.
Somebody was just online saying I want to get rid of the newsletter. I don't want to push anything anymore. Well, that's fine but the problem is your readership wants certain types of information pushed to them. Find how you're going to do it, but you can't eliminate all push channels and expect communication to work well.”
Elisabeth also had some grievances with choosing a communication channel:
“I'm going to share another grievance that is very specific, and that is, the belief that stand alone emails are still the answer to every communication problem. It feels like that's a battle that I should have won by now, but I continue to fight it on an almost daily basis. That is my grievance: the stand-alone email."
Sharyn went on the share her internal comms channel pain:
“My grievance is outdated intranet content. It's like whack-a-mole trying to keep up with all of the changes, and replacing documents, and keeping information and content fresh, and relevant, and correct on the intranet. For that matter, I think intranets are kind of becoming passe or at least I hope ours becomes passe soon and then I don't have to keep updating it.”
4. Leadership lacking transparency
One of our favorite tangents of the webinar came from an audience grievance.
Eduarda said her grievance was when executives fear sharing information internally because they cannot trust leaders in particular to not leak it, so leaders end up sharing nothing.
Angela was the first to weigh in:
"I remember when I was back in the corporate world, we had done a customer satisfaction survey for one of our companies. The problem is that a lot of the things that customers were least happy about were things that employees could actually make a difference in if they did their jobs a little differently.
The problem was management didn't want to share that because then what if the competition gets their hands on it and could see that, oh the competition has really low customer satisfaction on these factors."
Shel Holtz, Internal Communication Director at Webcor also had some insight for us:
“Not only that, but not sharing information leads to a lack of trust. We know from the Edelman Trust Barometer this year that 52% of front-line workers don't trust the company they work for. I think it was just yesterday or the day before, Accenture put out an estimate of what it costs when people don't trust your company, it's in like the half trillion dollar range for industry worldwide. That's pretty significant, so you have to ask your leaders to think about this from a risk/benefit perspective.
What are you actually risking if the information gets published externally, versus what do you gain, not only as Angela says by having employees able to address these issues, but by building the trust.
I read a piece a few months ago about the fact that nothing ever leaks from Facebook by employees. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are very open in sharing highly confidential information with employees. The reason it doesn't leak is because of peer pressure. Everyone knows that if this information leaks, they're going to stop sharing this stuff with us. They have built a culture of trust that works both ways. I think we should all strive for that type of a culture.”
3. Internal communicators not taking advantage of resources
Our host, Chuck Gose got heated about how much free content is out there, and how little communicators seem to be taking advantage of it:
“My grievance is with the internal comms professional themselves.
I get so frustrated when communicators aren't taking advantage of LinkedIn, aren't taking advantage of Twitter. There's so much. I see in the chat people were asking about the hashtag. There's so much great content. There's so much great education. There are so many great case studies. Even when everybody can't attend all the events they want and budgets are limited, this is free content that's out there. There are knowledgeable people, thought leaders, whatever word you want to use, gurus, ninjas, wizards, that are out there on LinkedIn and on Twitter sharing their ideas and it's free content. It's free to consume. It's free to interact.
I always challenge, always encourage communicators, especially internal ones to spend more time on social. Especially Twitter and LinkedIn.”
2. Being rejected from conferences
“Here is my grievance. I've always wanted to visit this magical land in Canada called Kelowna. I've heard all these amazing things about Kelowna, and they recently had their conference there and I submitted to speak at IABC Canada West, and I was summarily rejected from the event. I felt very scorned of my chance to go to Kelowna and be a part of that community. That is my first grievance of 2017 and it is with IABC Canada West.”
Before he jumped on camera, Sean Williams, VP of Education and Internal Communication Practices at True Digital Communications also had to a bone to pick. Chuck read his comments from the chat:
“He has a perfect record for applying to speak at IABC International Conference, or World Conference, and he has never been selected, and this coming year is no exception.”
And the #1 grievance of internal communicators in 2017 is....
1. Terrible internal comms research by professionals
We’d be dreaming if we didn’t think measurement would come up in our communicators’ grievances.
Shel brought up frustrations with some of the recent studies done in the industry:
“My first grievance is with all of those research organizations that continue to produce studies that suggest that internal communications isn't making a hell of a lot of difference. I just saw one from Weber-Shandwick that found that very very few employees strongly agree with the idea that the work at their organization actually aligns with the brand. With all the great work that's going on, how can that be? We've also seen a minuscule uptick in employee engagement over the last four years. With all the work we're doing? Come on, those are skewed numbers.”
Angela had a similar grievance:
“I've had this grievance for over 30 years. I'm just really upset that it continues to grieve me. It is badly done communication research by professional research companies.
This started 30 years ago when somebody did really bad research that came up with, supervisors are employees preferred source of communication. That's because they asked the question the wrong way. They just said pick one out of this whole list for where you want to get your work-related business information. If you could only pick one, they did pick the supervisor, but when you ask that question topic by topic by topic, you get completely different answers on different topics.
Why am I still complaining about this 30 years later? A well-known research organization, who shall not be named, just now issued a report to its membership that again came up with the supervisor is the most preferred, because again, they asked overall, where do you want to get all your information.
This just doesn't go away, and it really really bugs me.
There's more problems with this research, too. One of my favorites is, they were trying to come up with the most engaging communication channels that we should use the most, and the way they came up with this was two things: they asked, how useful do you find these different types of channels? The second questions asked, which of these do you use two or more times a week? Their premise was that the more engaging channels are the ones that they use two or more times a week.
There's only one problem. Many of these channels are only available quarterly, monthly, or once a week at the most. All of those immediately were discounted as not engaging channels.”
Carrie Basham Young, Principal and CEO of Talk Social to Me, had a similar bone to pick with these researchers:
“I would like to complain about some of the vendors with these enterprise social networks... That data exists on how different communities, people are interacting, and what is good, what is bad, what the benchmarks are, and they won't tell us what those are. Nobody will release that data to us, so we, when we're trying to help companies figure out how are they doing related to another company, we're starting from scratch. I want the vendors to release the data.”
Did we miss anything? What are your internal comms grievances for 2017? Tweet @bananatag and let us know!
*Please note: Some quotations were edited for clarity.