Inside out perspectives on internal communications from a practitioner, author and consultant. This blog offers my take on internal communications insights and practices to make professionals, researchers and students be more effective in their careers. This blog supplements my book, Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models (Sage Publications, 2012). Feel free to debate, comment and ask your questions. The views expressed on my blog are personal and do not reflect the views of the organization I work for. Cheers, Aniisu
I have had the opportunity in my earlier assignments to observe the transition between an existing vendor and another taking over the intranet management. Quite a tricky affair managing expectations and heartburn!
While trying to gauge what works best – in-sourcing or outsourcing, the debate never really ends. There are pros and cons but what matters is really how open the organization is in trying out new ideas and new ways of communicating with employees. For example, a conservative organization might prefer to run with its existing set-up fearing legacy issues and internal dynamics not once considering the immense ROI that an intranet can deliver.
Here are some of my observations which I can share on what internal communication professionals managing the intranet should look for while evaluating intranet agencies. I can speak for the Indian context – I am sure there are many different ways of going about the same elsewhere around the world.
a) Observe the thought process of the vendor: Are they coming to you as partners in creating an effective intranet or asking you to play to their game? Most often agencies come with ready to use, ‘tried and tested’ models which they try to plug and play. This is the easy way out. Avoid falling for the trap.
b) Usability skills is critical: Does the agency talk to you from a user’s perspective? Have they conducted Usability tests in the past and do they have examples to share? An intranet is all about connecting with your audience.
c) Design and content: While this is usually a given, check out the team capabilities. Who will be handling and working on your account? Who will review content and design updates from the agency? Does the individual have relevant experience? Can you look at some samples of unedited vs edited content?
d) Try and test: Do not rush to sign a contract just because the agency has a fancy flash website with a fantastic portfolio of work. Give them an opportunity to prove their worth. Provide a live project and test the commtiment, speed, logical thinking, creative abilities and client interactions.
e) Understanding business: Gauge the effort they take to understand business and culture before deciding on the business plan. It will give you a perspective of their attention to detail and ability to get the pulse of the audience. Some agencies may want to send their team over to spend a day. By all means – encourage it. If they are willing to soak in the culture, it is a positive sign.
In India, most internal communication openings are known either through networks or via consultants. Internal communication professionals are a rare breed in this part of the world.
Apart from large, established multi-nationals, the concept of engaging with internal communication professionals is still quite unfamiliar. The JD ( job descriptions) shared by consultants generally include the entire gamut of responsibilities but fail to acknowledge the specialist role of internal communicators. The internal communicator is also asked to take on the ‘additional’ responsibility of PR and event management among others!
I often highlight this point to my students at St. Josephs School of Business Adminstration ( www.sjcba.ac.in) emphasising the need to be known for a certain skill-set or domain knowledge. It is important to get a fair understanding of the other functions but we end up remembering one or at best two aspects of a person’s capabilities. Be it in copywriting or say leadership skills.
It is also the responsibility of consultants to understand the job requirements before contacting a communication professional. Unfortunately, it is not the practice currently. Recruiters are in a hurry to fill the openings.
If I was to select an individual, I would probably provide a case study and understand how the individual uses his or her faculties to implement an internal communications strategy and solution rather than rely on the years of experience. That should be the first level of screening.
The next stage is to understand the cutural fit between the organization’s core values and how the candidate maps to it. Tough ask but not immpossible. Is the candidate approachable? Can the person be flexible to assignments? How innovative is the candidate?
Finally, it boils down to the level of commitment which the candidate can showcase.
Just a couple of days ago, I received a brief for an important human resources communication related to career development. When I enquired if there was a measurement metric in mind to understand if the program was successful or not, I was greeted with a wry smile. There was none. “Could we measure the hits to the site?” was the apology of a response. My recommendation was to conduct a pre-campaign study on awareness, back it up by a measurement criteria on the number of takers for the program followed by a post-event survey. At times, one would even have to put out an expectation of the program, be it the number of registerations or the visits to the page…which I feel are soft measurements but still needed to have a direction.
What does an internal communicator do when you are faced with a challenge of gathering content for the intranet? Do you wait for content to come in or are there some steps you can take to continue keeping the intranet alive?
I thought of a couple of ideas and would like to bounce it off you.
Why not do a Google with the company logo? Use the logo effectively to convey themes relevant to the organization.
Rotate content on the home page. Most often, due to the number of layers within intranets, content gets buried within the system. Give each team and section a slot on the home pages for a specified time.