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Make the Grade this Groundhog Day

As our American cousins celebrate Groundhog Day on 2 February, we were inspired to pull together our top tips to help communicators who are stuck in a rut with their internal communications.

Ever had a Bill Murray moment where you feel trapped in a never-ending cycle with your internal communications?

We’ve all been there. We work our socks off to deliver impactful internal communications, but time and time again we get the same result, and not the one we wanted. 

So, if you’re stuck in a rut with your internal comms, it’s time to think differently about your approach... 

Have you set the right objectives? 

Sometimes projects and campaigns fall flat because the right objectives weren’t set to begin with, or in some cases, weren’t set at all.  
Review why you communicated this. Was it realistic? Was it measurable? Did they address the problem you were trying to solve (if there was one)?

Ensure your objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) and support the organisation’s strategic objectives. Check back regularly and ensure you’re still on track and haven’t veered off on a tangent all in the name of creativity. 

You can have the most creative, whizzy campaign but if it’s not grounded in strategic thinking, you’re unlikely to see the results you want. 

Speak to your people

Consider running focus groups to understand why things aren’t landing the way you hoped. It’s a great opportunity to get context and to better understand what people want from their internal communications. 

It’s important to leave egos at the door and be open to listening to what your employees have to say and resist the urge to justify or defend the decisions you made. You also need to be prepared to make changes to your approach based on the feedback, else people won’t rush to share their thoughts and ideas with you again. 

Is leadership on board? 

Often people need to see an example set by leadership before they will change their behaviour. 
Have you engaged leaders with your campaign or project in a way that helps them to understand what you’re trying to achieve, how it will support the business and why their endorsement could be very powerful? 

Provide them with the key highlights of your campaign rather than lots of detail and be really clear on what you need them to do and why. 

Apply some nudge theory

If you’re trying to influence or change behaviour, consider applying some nudge theory. It’s basically what it sounds like, nudging people to do certain behaviours. It’s worth reading up on it as there are ethical considerations; a good place to start is The Nudge Unit by David Halpern. 

A great example of nudge theory is when car company Volkswagen decided to encourage people to exercise more by painting the stairs in a subway station in Stockholm like the keys of a piano. They added pressure pads that played a musical note when stepped on and found that 66% more people than normal chose to take the stairs. 

Get inspiration from other departments 

Are there other departments that are currently riding high on a wave of success? If so, go chat with them and understand the approach they took. 

They might have tips about how to appeal to certain stakeholders, have access to data that can inform your approach, processes and approaches you could use.

And if you’re nervous about admitting things aren’t going so well, have a think about what advice you can offer them in return. The great thing about internal communicators is that we have many strings to our bow, and no doubt at least one of them will be of interest to colleagues in other departments. 

Look at award winning case studies 

In our profession we’re very good at shining a light on best practice. There’s lots of industry awards that recognise internal comms teams and projects, plus many of them publish case studies after. 

It’s always worth looking around you to see how internal comms peers overcame challenges and had a real measurable impact on their organisations. Lots of internal communicators blog so there’s a wealth of best practice examples available for you to learn from. You don’t have to come up with everything yourself. 

We also have a really strong internal comms network with people more than happy to share experiences and give advice, so get stuck in to the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn, and at events. 

Don’t be afraid to fail 

Failure doesn’t have to be all bad. Turn it into a positive by learning from what didn’t go so well and applying those learnings to your next campaign or project. 

Sometimes we need to step outside of our comfort zone and dare to try something different. It can feel like the stakes are high, especially if everything you’ve delivered so far hasn’t quite hit the mark. 

But being creative and trying something new can still be done in a realistic way. Always have a strategy behind your creative campaign – clarity on its purpose, audience, channels and how it will be measured. 

It’s now time to wake up from your own Groundhog Day and to start afresh. Having a real impact through internal communication is extremely possible, but sometimes you have to take stock and look at things a different way. Let us know your top tips for getting out of a rut and what difference it made to your internal comms and the wider organisation. 

By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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