Tag Archives: executive communication

What does leadership want to see from internal communications?

Internal communications haven’t always been a top priority for executives, but there are signs that status is changing.

In a post on his blog, executive recruiter and speaker John G. Self explains how things used to be:

In far too many organizations, the job of internal communications has been assigned to someone in PR — a good writer who also held several other responsibilities. They were buried in the organization and had little or no responsibility for strategy or contact with the “brass” in the C-suite. In essence, internal communications was an important after thought, not a valuable resource for the CEO and his team to use in improving employee engagement.

Now, smart CEOs are figuring out that internal communications are an integral part of their own job success, Self writes. Here are a few key results executives are increasingly looking to see:

1. A cohesive corporate culture working toward shared goals.

According to research from Metrus Group, only 14 percent of employees understand their organization’s overarching strategies. That’s far too low. Executives with big ideas and sweeping plans need employees who are on the same page and share their philosophy to really make those plans soar.

“The cornerstone of effective execution is awareness and understanding,” James O’Mara writes on the OnMessage blog. “This can only be achieved through persistent and consistent communication of the strategy.”

Communications strategist Doug Poretz adds, “Regardless of the exact situation, the players in the Knowledge Economy team do their work not as an episodic event in a series of episodic events but as parts of a dynamic team of collaborators.”

2. Employee retention and recruitment.

This goes hand-in-hand with a cohesive, engaging culture. The more invested in their work employees feel, the more likely they are to stay. It also boosts your organization’s reputation, which means the top recruits are more likely to want to work there.

Self breaks it down like this:

When companies fail to communicate effectively, this contributes to employee turnover. The cost of turnover is damned expensive even though few companies report it on their income statements. Not reporting this expense is not reason to maintain the status quo…In highly competitive industries in highly competitive markets, there will be important winners and big losers. The winners will be those organizations with the best employees who are fully engaged in their work and their company.

3. Creating employee leaders and advocates.

Along with alignment with company values, the Institute for Public Relations lists this as a reason for executive-level involvement in internal communications: “identify, describe, and celebrate role models among employees.” It also defines employee advocacy as “the voluntary promotion or defense of a company, its products, or its brands by an employee externally.”

Executives and PR reps can’t be the only cheerleaders for a company. An effective internal communications strategy can bring the advocates an organization already has to the fore, and give them the tools they need to amplify the message.

4. Knowing what they don’t know.

A good internal communication strategy includes measurement. Metrics such as reach and frequency across the various communications channels identify what messages are being delivered to which audience segments. By measuring interactions, repetitions of key phrases and storylines, sentiment analysis, feedback, and simple survey responses, communicators and executives can understand, objectively, how employees are responding to and engaging with your communications. Measurement enables learning what works best to spark employee interest and put an exchange of ideas in motion.

With that information in hand, executives and their communication advisors can craft language and execute plans that move the culture and performance of the organization at large.

7 tips to justify internal comms measurement to business leaders

Most people who have worked in internal communications for a good amount of time are likely aware that top executives aren’t totally sold on the idea of making the effort to measure it.

In PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey, 25 percent of the communicators surveyed said the biggest challenge to measuring internal communications was that leadership didn’t see the value in it or doesn’t view it as a priority.

Yet 54 percent also said that measurement is valuable because it makes it easier to persuade C-suite executives to make good communication decisions.

Measurement justifies further measurement. That means communicators must be smart with the resources they have to prove why top business leaders should make measurement a cornerstone part of their corporate communications.

Here are seven tips that help make the case:

1. Go beyond “awareness.”

In an article for the Institute for Public Relations, Ethan McCarty, Global Head of Employee and Innovation Communications for Bloomberg, argues that “awareness is just one arrow in our quiver.” Communicators must show executives the business outcomes that arise from that awareness, not just prove that employees know more.

2. Demonstrate how information moves.

To build on McCarty’s point, internal communications are the most effective when messages don’t just move from the top down, but flow between employees and out into the world in a positive way. If you can show that employees are engaged and being activated to speak up, executives can instantly see the value. It can also change the culture. “The combination of openness and the easy flow of communication to everyone combine to make people feel like part of a coherent whole,” states the University of Kansas’ Community Tool Box section on internal communication.

3. Prove that the internal audience is unique.

The notion that internal communications are not PR may seem obvious, but it isn’t always immediately apparent to top-level leaders. You have to show them. “The models employed by strategy-focused internal communicators are…vastly different from the earned-media models that occupy most of the time of most PR practitioners,” communications expert Shel Holtz writes at his blog. With surveys and other tools, you can show that.

4. Show what you’re learning.

Measurement doesn’t mean much if the numbers aren’t being put to use. The people in the C-suite need to know communicators are changing up their strategies based on the metrics. In a LinkedIn post, Stuart Z. Goldstein, former managing director of corporate communications and public affairs at Depository Trust & Clearing, puts it this way: “Research won’t win the budget battles by itself, but it does provide a valuable lobbying tool, and it signals to management that corporate communications is learning from best practices.”

5. Drop what isn’t working.

Trying new things is really important, but executives aren’t going to stand for adding one thing on top of the other. If commuicators can show that measuring results has led to them dropping some less-than-effective channels to make room for the new stuff, it can prove that resources are being used more wisely.

6. Give examples of how it helped solve problems.

The KU Community Toolbox bluntly states, “Problems can be resolved, but only if they’re identified and acknowledged.” How do you identify them? Measurement. Show executives where you’ve pinpointed problems—perhaps email messages weren’t formatted in the most appealing way—and fixed them through employee feedback.

7. Participate in “strategic marketing.”

Goldstein says most communications reporting is viewed as “drudgery.” Don’t make yours a slog to get through. Serve up a road map that directly ties the metrics you’re presenting to business goals. “This approach addresses management’s question about ROI quite directly and is a powerful way to sell the value of corporate communications,” he writes.

9 Best Practices for Executive and Leadership Communication

For some executives, communication is an afterthought, or even a “necessary evil.” A Harvard Business Review/Harris poll found that a staggering 91 percent of U.S. workers see communication issues as a major hindrance for business leaders.

Thriving organizations have open lines of communication at all levels, including at the top. According to research conducted by the Project Management Institute, leaders who are effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than those who are minimally effective. Likewise, better communication means fewer company dollars are put at risk.

What can leaders and top corporate communicators do to ensure that executives are communicating effectively? Here are nine best practices, as laid out by communication experts, researchers and successful executives themselves:

1. Foster a culture of communication.

In a post on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School’s website, communications expert Walter G. Montgomery writes, “It’s important for everyone to know that the CEO takes communications very seriously.” When everyone within an organization understands that communication is a key value—not just an afterthought—everyone will be more willing to listen and engage.

2. Don’t be afraid of training.

Montgomery adds that top executives should “insist on training initiatives to ensure people have the ability to carry out their communications duties effectively.” Those training mandates should apply to executives themselves.

3. Be crystal clear.

Employees are busy, which means they don’t have time to do detective work to figure out what an executive speech or email means. Dispense with meaningless platitudes and jargon. Say what you mean and let employees know in clear language what you want them to do.

4. Don’t just be a cheerleader.

The Institute for Public Relations suggests that employees today are looking for ways to demonstrate their “ethic of contribution” to go above and beyond normal job performance, so challenge them to achieve; don’t just point to what they’ve done.

5. Have a common goal in mind.

Everyone within and organization should be working toward the same thing, and it’s up to executives to make that goal apparent. The American Management Association’s David Hassell puts it this way: “When employees operate at cross purposes, communication is critical in setting things straight.”

6. Speak in your own voice.

Employees want to hear from a person. They don’t want canned, committee-written edicts. “The lower your pedestal, the more they’ll rally behind you,” Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work told Inc.

7. Engage in a dialogue.

Communication doesn’t end when you send your email or give your speech. Hassell writes, “Meet the enthusiastic sharing of ideas, insights, and concerns with positive reinforcement, never reproach, no matter how critical.”

8. Take a multi-pronged approach.

Different employees want different things when it comes to communication. Some may prefer face-to-face interaction with a manager, others may prefer to read messages in newsletters or other company-wide emails. Still others may look to the company intranet. Craft versions of your key messages to cater to all the audiences within your organization to ensure everyone is on the same page.

9. Measure your results.

The Institute for PR insists that “best in class companies relentlessly track strategies, tactics and channels.”

Want to know more about what works and what doesn’t in the world of internal communications? Download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.