- The number of channels for Communications to “fill” is ever-expanding
- The bar for content relevancy is higher than ever before
- The interactive nature of Communications –and the resulting demand to keep-up with “always-on” channels – is unsustainable, especially for smaller Communications teams
I recently had the opportunity to join a group of “small shop” communicators for a two day workshop on Creating a Culture of Communication. We discussed these challenges and came to the conclusion (backed by CEC research) that to achieve a culture of communication, active dialogue—i.e., outside of dialogue led by Communications—needs to be occurring across the organization.
For many communicators this is a formidable task. You’re facing managers who think that hitting forward on company message counts as communicating; CEOs who fear what employees might say if you were to put a comment feature at the bottom of their messages; and autonomous business units who don’t have a natural reason to share feedback or ideas. A culture of communications may sound like an impossible dream gift on a communicators’ holiday wish list. But, every company has stakeholders that like them. And at every company (yes, even yours), there are a portion of those stakeholders who actually talk about the company.
This culture of communication is already in place—your role is just to find opportunities for it to have more impact. We have found five key ways to enable a culture of communication:
All five don’t need to occur at once, but you may see an opportunity for your organization in at least one of them.
For some participants at the Small Shop Forum, looking at these five opportunities brought to mind things that were already in place at their organizations. For example, many communicators mentioned specialty groups active at their companies–women’s committees, sustainability committees, diversity committees, etc.–which are organically formed and run by interested employees. These groups require limited (or zero) Comms resources to manage—but that does not mean their impact needs to be limited.
A great example came from the head of Communications at MWH Global. She said that at first she didn’t think her company had any real advocacy groups; however, upon a closer look they realized that they were not using the existing employee groups to their fullest potential. MWH’s HR team supports a program for young professionals in the organization. Although this group was initially designed as a professional development opportunity, it has been empowered to support the company and communications operations. For example, the generation Y employees involved in this program have helped Communications develop the social media strategy for the company. They have also been the champions of many CSR initiatives and helped engage other stakeholders in this area.
Allstate designed their ambassador movement from a similar realization that their employees were already willing to speak up on behalf of the company- they just needed to feel encouraged to do so.
What about you? Among these options, do you see an opportunity for your team to support increased dialogue in the coming year?