Tips for connecting when the annual company bbq isn't an option.
Internal communicators have tough jobs in their organizations; they work to make organizational changes, initiatives, events, announcements, new hires/retires, relevant to fellow colleagues. Not always an easy feat. And how do you get to be relevant in the midst of it all?
The answer? You get to know your audience.
Make a phone call
Not to be confused with "conference call." While those can sometimes be necessary, they are certainly more successful when you know the people who you're speaking with on the other end. Instead, this is just a straight-up phone call.
Like, what everyone used to do before text messages/SnapChat/FaceTime/"insert-the-name-of-any-instant-messaging-service-here" came along.
If you're having a particularly hard time getting traction with a fraction of your company, look up the department in your e-Directory and call the first number you see . Or ask someone in your office if they've ever worked in that area of the organization before - they might pass along the phone number of someone who can help, or do an e-introduction to be followed up with a phone call.
Host an internal webinar
Even if it's just for an initial kick-off meeting, host your own webinar. If this is a project you're going to be working on for a long time and there are people doing things in places that are all foreign concepts to you, having a face-to-face via a webinar at the very least makes these employees real to you, and you to them.
Start a working group
Yes, these can turn into an unwieldy monster, with waaay too many voices, opinions and agendas at the table. Conversely, it can also turn into an invaluable network who represent fractions of a larger group you're trying to connect with.
They're able to tell you what type of a timeline for the dissemination of communication makes sense for their team, what sort of delivery works best (FAQ versus links to an e-newsletter article versus a poster), what else is competing for that same airspace (your renovation is one of five happening at that same facility), etc. And, just as important, it creates buy-in.
Find your internal champion
Piggybacking on the idea above, a working group is an excellent way to find and create champions. Depending on the size of your organization or the makeup of the team/people you're communicating to, you might just need one person who you've connected with.
That person knows what you have to say is relevant, they can encourage others to stay up to date on what you're putting out there, or will simply become the conduit for the info you're imparting.
Volunteer and ask to be sent to meetings
Do your regional managers meet in-person for quarterly meetings? Be there. Especially if this is a group that you're unfamiliar with in terms of what they do, what their staff needs, what they're challenged by, what occupies the majority of their time, etc.
Does this mean that you need to start flying to the remote throes of Ontario every four months, simply to make sure your inroads are in place? Not necessarily. But showing effort is half the battle, and being at the table is testament to being invested.
And guaranteed, after one meeting you'll have made a few connections which means you’ll have a better idea of what makes this audience tick.
Do a "ride-along"
Getting to shadow someone's day is ideal because it means that the people you're communicating to are accessible -- or at least relatively accessible. And not unlike the investment that asking to be sent shows, asking for the inside scoop on someone's day-to-day goes a long way.
Internal communicators are quick studies on a lot of topics and can whip out an key message in their sleep, but IC pros can rarely glean the minutia of a situation or the impact a change is going to have unless provided an inside look on what the audience's day-to-day entails.
A ride-along is what elevates an "email from corporate" to being a pertinent piece of communication that lands and shows the recipient that we "get it."
Maintain those relationships
Whether you decide to try out all of these tips or just one, remember to maintain the relationship you've cultivated with the employees in your organization.
That phone call you made two weeks ago, the champion you created and connected with, or the ride-along are all useless if you don't preserve these meaningful connections. By doing so, you not only get a snapshot into your internal audience, but you also become longtime collaborators.