Internal communicators are experts and specialists who collaborate with leaders and human resources to help achieve a shared understanding of organizational goals, connect and recognize employees. However to be accepted as leaders the team is often called up to prove its worth and value. How you build your team’s presence is crucial for their success.
Here are some ways to ensure you can coach your team and build presence not just among stakeholders but across your organization.
List your team’s SLAs: To be effective with internal communication means to be able to set the right expectations on the role and impact. Very often you have a small team as compared to other support groups and therefore it is helpful to set clear service level agreements (SLAs) for all the work you offer. You will do your team a favor by explaining your team’s role at every opportunity you get.
Work with an agreed set of messages: Have an outreach presentation which articulates what the internal communication team stands for, supports in terms of work, lists stakeholders and showcases recent cases where you have made a tangible difference. Nothing beats the ability to delight your stakeholders that a thought through presentation.
Support your team’s growth: If you are a team leader you are in the best position to identify opportunities that your team needs for learning and development both internally and externally. You may get formal and informal feedback on your team which can be fed into creating a tangible development plan. Coach them on conducting events and workshops.
Be seen as a thought leader: The more your team is seen as leading the way with thoughtful recommendations there is greater chances of it getting the right support. For example, there will be opportunities to share best practices in internal communication, discuss ways to plan communication better, create digital storytelling assets, improve writing standards, using social media effectively and craft suitable messages. These are obviously skills that many stakeholders will love to have.
Value-add over and beyond your role: I often encourage my team to go over and above their work and participate in not just internal forums but external sessions. There is no better way to expand perspective and broad horizons. Have them join local communication groups, team up with corporate social responsibility units or even contribute articles to publications.
Revisit your team structure: Revisit your team structure to check if there is enough cross-pollination and collaboration. Often teams work in silos only because their line of sight is limited. Get everyone on the same page either with periodic updates or calls. Have team members’ work on cross-departmental themes where better ideas are germinated. You may want to embed team members within business units for better exposure and understanding.
Periodic updates: Apart from the outreach presentation it helps to periodically report out on progress. I practice a monthly report rhythm for stakeholders that cover highlights of the previous month, the stakeholders impacted, metrics from communication interventions, feedback and a snapshot on what’s coming next. I also ensure to call out success stories, challenges, key people who contributed and the outcomes we are driving towards. It is useful to ask for feedback on the report so that you can continue improvising. One important feedback that I recently incorporated related to what the internal communication team does. The feedback came in that very few were aware of the offerings that internal communications had as a service.
External trends and outcomes: Share positive and negative sentiments on topics of relevance. For example, an attrition study that depicts how the region or a certain industry is faring. You can review and synthesize a Great Place to Work Survey report and provide directions.
Page on your intranet: Have a page on your internal network where stakeholders and employees get to know your team, the work you do, the policies, the process, the format and how to join hands with your team. You may have a project which needs audience participation. This is a great way to start.
Build case studies on great work: You can explain most of what you do through relevant and insightful case studies. Be it how you promoted a leadership visit, a change management intervention where you overcome mindsets or a crisis communication which reduced impact to the organization.
Recognize people who supported your team: It is probably the easiest but often very likely missed in an increasingly fast paced world – recognizing those who make your team excel. As a support function you will be working closely with the office departments to extend the reach and impact of your communication. The people behind the scenes are the one who need a ‘pat of their back’.
Communicating a common voice: Finally, does your team have a shared understanding of what you stand for and deliver? I am often surprised that internal communication leaders overlook this very important element of building team presence. Have an elevator speech that everyone on the team knows and can articulate well. It is also important that each member knows what the other is doing, either through knowledge sharing sessions or by reaching out during 1:1s.
Have other ideas to amplify your team’s presence? Share them here.