Internal Communication Strategy at small companies?

Some days ago I was taking part in an online debate about internal comm strategies at small companies. Do businesses with a few employees -they could fit just in a one-room office- really need internal communication strategies? For sure, they do. The risk comes when you think that a small team can be led with -so to speak- one hand and that one first message is enough. Or, perhaps, you may think that different roles and tasks have nothing to share among them. Here is the mistake.

Employees need to feel a part of a whole project; they need to know where the company is going and must contribute the company’s goals from their experience and vision. Even the most uncooperative employee is a part of a whole and needs to feel like that. Are your employees identified with the company’s goals?

Values of team working are being polite, helpful, respectful, collaborative; they must understand each other, meet mutual needs and cover each other to supply a good service. A good team-working employee has a good eye for realising that a colleague may be a bit Imageoverwhelmed at some point and replaces him/her for attending a phone-call or whatever the colleague may be required for.

This attitude can be based on natural skills, but the company can also contribute them without leaving everything to the nature. This is part of an internal strategy as well.

In our century, we are evolving from managerial business roles to collaborative ones. This also requires the CEO’s attention: how to make the employees partake in meetings, goals’ design, give them a say, give them voice, ask for their opinions, etc.

Employees want to promote themselves and to keep growing from a professional point of view. The company must also offer them opportunities to improve their skills, their professional qualification, their formation… It will have an positive effect on the whole business. New languages, professional courses, … There are many institutions to finance these courses .

Employees like enjoying as well. The workplace can not be an unpleasant space. They spend more hours a day at the job post than with their own families of in their private lives. So, the office has to be a comfortable place to be in, from all points of view: furniture, environment, kitchen points, cleanliness, rest areas … It could be the first place to have a nice environmental behaviour. Let us start recycling in our own offices!

Employees are a community. They may like sharing informations, opinions, events… And the CEO must be aware about this and facilitate the means, social media platforms included, to share whatever they want.

These are basic fields, most of them deduced from ordinary life at a small company. The advantage in large companies is that there usually is a person in charge of these matters; the risk in small companies is that nobody cares about this function.




Back after a long break! from a MA in PR to a job in PR

I am very sorry for my absence. This blog was created because of one of my modules during my course in the University of Westminster (MA in Public Relations). I have been working on my dissertation during three hard months. I handed in it last August and then got an offer for a job.

After my first month in my new company (in Spain) I have come back to my blog again, and hope to share my first professional steps with all my readers.

I am working in a legal services company in South Spain, very near Gibraltar. We like to describe ourselves as a friendly help for foreign people (mainly English speaking people) who need legal services in Spain.

I am in charge of Corporate Communications and all the employees have some responsibility on Client Care. I will keep you up to date from this new and amazing view.

Thanks to you all!


PS. By the way, I got a good mark on my Dissertation. I will write about it as well, since it is a good document to share.

Help your staff to become your best advocates

This is a paragraph of the book ‘Organisations don’t tweet… People do’, by Euan Semple which I highly recommend while I find time to write a new own post:

‘Listen first. Really listen. Listen to the good and the bad, no matter who is saying it or where they are saying it. This is the first time you have had the possibility to get this close to customers and prospects. Do your own listening. Don’t outsource it and read bland reports.

Require all the staff and managers to learn how to find and listen to conversations about your products or services online. Get them to listen to what is being said and share it with everyone else in the company who is interested. Help them to connect to the people they are listening to. Help your staff to become your best advocates.Give them the tools and the insights to become yous ambassadors online. Treat the relationships that emerge with respect. Don’t consign them to a faceless database. Try to maintain the connection despite personnel and industry changes. Do whatever you can to keep the conversation going at an appropriate level with everyone who has trusted you enough to open up a conversation with you’.

Page 147.

what are the employees’ needs in Internal Communication?

employee cartoon

Internal Communications is often evaluated from the perspective of managers, but not so often from the perspective of the employees. Researchs and tools about it are focused on processes and content; however, it seems that nobody cares about the employee communication real needs.

Employees are the most valuable stakeholders from a strategic point of view. Their ‘organisational Identification’ contributes value to the company since identification brings along with performance. Employee responses to organisational policies, practices and structures affect their potential to experience engagement. For example,  The higher the level of organisational identity of sales managers, the greater the sales quota achievement.

On the other hand, a lack of organisational identification is associated with increased stress and burn out, withdrawall and sickness.

Managerss shoul pay more attention to ‘internal corporate communication’, designed to promote commitment to the organisation, a sense of belonging to it, awareness of its changing environment ans understanding of its evolving aims. Once organisational engagement is achieved, the goal is aimed.

What would employees like their organisations to communicate? They would like to hear about organisational commitment, job performance, personal job-related matters, organisational decision making, complaint voice, superiors’ evaluation,… They also would like to feel that their work counts. To sum up, four areas should be covered by corporate internal communications: job, personal, operational and strategic issues.

To engage the employees, organisations should

-provide opportunities to feed employee views upwards.

-make them feel well informed about what is happening in the organisation

– provide them evidence to think that their manager is commited to the organisation.

They are no so dificult to achieve, the only thing needed is an accurate internal communication strategy.


The experience with speakers through this MA in Public Relations

The MA in Public Relations provided by the University of Westminster consists of both an academic and practical experience.
Besides the group works and constant practical assignments, I would like to share with my readers our experience with the speakers.
We met some of them in their workplaces (the Ministry of Defence, the agency, The British Library) and others came to the campus to give their lectures.

In this second term, we have received the visit of four speakers in the module about Corporate Communications at Marylebone Campus.

Images provided by LinkedIn

Images provided by LinkedIn: J. Frost, K. Ruck, M. Hoevel and C. Lowe

The first speaker was Jessica Frost, from Regester Larkin. She talked about reputation and risk management, and one of the things I liked most was her CV and her professional attitude and skills, coming as she did from another professional area. Apart from that, she described reputation management through those six verbs: predict, prepare, prevent, resolve, respond and recover. She talked about crisis management and the role of social media when an organisation is being challenged by a crisis: to what extent the organisation needs to understand its audiences, influencers, the social media platforms and channels, and the rules of engagement on social media. And the big piece of advice for preventing crisis: rehearse, rehearse and rehearse.
Next speaker was Kevin Ruck, from PR Academy. His lecture was about Internal Communications, and he described a broad landscape about internal communications theories and practices. He proposed public relations as a strategic management, according to J. E. Grunig´s model, and through an interactive lecture guided us within the employee voice concept, the importance of employee engagement (built from leadership, engaging managers, voice and integrity). He was a wise expert with a recently published book, ‘Exploring Internal Communication’. Usually after the speakers’ lectures we the students had to present a case study about the same topic; none of the speakers used to remain during our presentations, but that day the guest decided to stay. Guess who was presenting that day… It was me!!
After Mr. Ruck’s visit, we received an expert in Corporate Social Responsibility: Michael Hoevel from Glasshouse Partnership. It was a clever lecture about the reasons why business do CSR, the concepts of power, influence and efficiency, the accountability structure and the need of an integrated CSR aimed to benefit the whole organisation.
The last speaker in the term was Chris Lowe from College Public Policy. It was the first time I heard about lobbying from a professional practitioner. It turn out amazing and I particularly enjoyed when he described his activity as a perfectly legitimate task not as terrible as it is perceived in my country, where lobbying is still pervaded with secrecy and suspicion.
Bringing professional PR to this MA has been absolutely rewarding and effective for our knowledge and experience. It encourages us to face the future with good prospects.

Social Media make the world global; but global is not equal to standard

Globalisation is not equal to standardization and different cultures need different communication strategies.
Anthropologist Edward T. Hall created the distinction between `high context´ and `low context´ in intercultural communications, two interesting concepts to keep in mind when designing communication strategies and relationships in international public relations.
In a HIGH CONTEXT culture, the primary purpose of communication is to form and develop relationships; whereas in a LOW CONTEXT, the primary purpose of communication is the exchange of information and facts.
There is an interesting classification of countries based on this issue (although it is not fair to generalize): in countries with low context the communication is verbal (over non verbal), the business outlook is competitive, the work style is individualistic and the work ethic is task-oriented. Whereas in high context countries the communication in non verbal over verbal, the business outlook is cooperative, the work style is team oriented and the work ethic is relationship-oriented.
Using an example to compare business relationships between an American and a Japanesse manager, this last one said to the American: `We are a homogeneous people and don’t have to speak as much as you do here. When we say one word, we understand ten, but here you have to say ten to understand one´.

These differences could make the most (or the worst) in business relationships and also in PR campaigns. PR is about creation of meanings as well, and culture has a powerfull effect on communication.

For example, in high context countries which emphasize interpersonal relationships, trust is a key elememt before setting up any business transaction. And trust is built not by a contract or preceding agreement, but by a whole made of conversations, gestures, relations and meetings, facial expressions and even the speaker´s tone of voice. They could even distrust a contract if there is a lack of those other elements.

On the other hand, a low context culture values logic, facts and directness (things that in a high context culture could turn out even a bit rude). They are governed by reason and facts, and use concise meaningful words. To agree a business transaction the only thing they need is an explicit contract.

Context relates to framework, background, and surrounding circumstances in which communication or an event takes place. To become a better international communicator, the first thing to do is to know the different cultures and cultural values. Try to know very well your audience.

Social Media and social networking make it more difficult to keep in mind these differencies since you might be addressing to someone who lives in the other side ot the world. To prevent some cultural potential problems, many companies practice a localized multi-country strategy. They establish different brands and different messages for each particular country, and so they avoid the risk of damaging the whole company reputation (if that were the case); but at the same time they do not benefit from cost savings with global strategies.
Dealing with globalisation and networking requires an accurate qualification in PR practitioners.

saludo oriental

For in-house PR: How to create a brief for a campaign

`Imagine for a moment that you are the Corporate Communications Director of one organisation and you have been asked by your Chief Executive to recruit a PR agency. Now you have to write a brief that should cover the reputation issues your campaign is seeking to address; the evidence that you have considered key stakeholders – including those with most influence; the evidence that you understand the primary audience and appropriate media for reaching them; you should also offer a clear statement of how the campaign will help to meet the company’s business objectives; give clear objectives – for the agency to respond to, and a budget and timescale for the agency to work within. The budget for hiring the agency will need to be signed off by the Board. You are therefore asked to present your recommendations to the Board on…(date)´.

These were the instructions for one of the last assignments in this term: write a brief for a campaign.

First of all you need to find out which company you are working with, and make a bit of research about its possible reputation problems or challenges.
I chose the British Legion, the oldest charity working for the UK Armed Forces. This was my pre-brief: British Legion wants to campaign to bring in a UK version of the “GI Bill” which offers all army/navy/air force veterans who have served for a prerequisite time to be eligible for a university education with all fees and living expenses provided by the state.

You need to keep in mind that you are preparing a document which should inspire an agency to design a creative and effective campaign. It means that you cannot `suffocate´ its creativity by framing too much their job.

Some people describe this task of writing a brief as the work of building a bridge between the point `where we are now´ and the point `where we want to be´. You are to provide the agency this information avoiding the temptation of building it yourself.

So it is necessary to make it as clear as possible. To think that it is from the brief that everything else flows. The better the brief, the better and more accurate the results.

But the real fact is that you have no idea about the organisation you have chosen, and research will get a big part of your time.
Once you have found some evidences about a possible reputation problem, based on real data, you need to build up a whole brief.

In my case, I researched about the situation of veterans (every people who have left the armed forces, no matter how long they were on it): the needs they have, the difficulties they face, the help they actually count on, and the public opinion state about them.

I found out the existence of a high level risk of criminal reputation because of potential or real criminal behaviour in veterans, and the worst thing was that this risk was being published on traditional media.
British legion results
I decided that my campaign should be aimed to get from the government an official support for young veterans among 18-35 years old to be able to join the University. It would be my first lobbying campaign; we would need to change the Law that we had just achieved from the government and get them (and also from the opposition and from public opinion) the support to make real the establishment of a British version of the GI Bill.

It has been an amazing assignment, and the most amazing thing was that I deleted my whole document some hours before handing it in.