Well…there’s more than five but we know you’re all a little busy right now!
This time last year, the situation we find ourselves in now would have seemed preposterous. Yet here we are, finding our way through uncharted territory together. Internal comms has never been more important than it is now, and undoubtedly, we will all look back at this time with a sense of pride at what was achieved in the most challenging of circumstances.
And as with every new situation, there’s always plenty to observe and learn (mainly how awesome internal communicators are – see point 5). So, we’ve collated some thoughts from the last few weeks, which we hope can be enjoyed with a well-earned cuppa (or something stronger if you like) and a biscuit.
Plain English is everything
When the term ‘social distancing’ was first mentioned, internal communicators shuddered. A crisis is not the time to introduce unfamiliar words and phrases that have the potential to confuse people.
Social distancing is the opposite of what we need to be doing. We live in a world of technology that keeps us connected wherever we are in the world, and it’s important to remind people of that. In fact, people are saying they feel more connected at the moment than they have in a very long time.
The message that should have been shared was ‘stay at home’ as this image shared by Helen Reynolds on Twitter perfectly demonstrates:
It’s been a good reminder that even content from official sources needs rewording sometimes to make sense for our employees.
A crisis can bring out the best and the worst in people
There have been some shocking examples shared online where employees have found out they lost their jobs through bluntly worded emails sent by leadership.
It’s possible the authors of said emails thought they were being factual and transparent. However, you can share facts while still having empathy. People are scared and the impact of this virus is far reaching. Everyone I speak to has a different concern depending on their own situation. Compassion and kindness have never been more important in the way we communicate.
And paired with this is using, and directing people to, single sources of truth. Who hasn’t received a WhatsApp message from a well-meaning family member or friend linking to the cure for Coronavirus or a website that claims it’s all a conspiracy theory?
It’s been fantastic to see internal communicators leading the way on this by keeping people reliably and regularly informed based on hard facts (even when most important announcements are being revealed at 5.30pm!).
Understanding human behaviour really matters
Despite communication from the government about what to do and what not to do, people across the country continued to flout the rules. Undoubtedly, this was partly due to a lack of clarity on those instructions, but also a misplaced assumption that humans will simply do as they’re told.
Anyone who has been studying neuroscience and nudge theory will know that simply isn’t the case. It’s a good reminder that communication isn’t just about getting the right words down on a page or using the right channels. We need to understand what makes us human and why we do the things we do.
Hopefully, a positive to come out of all of this is that communication will be seen in a different light by businesses. Not only from how important it is, but how complex it is and why you need experts like us to lead it.
There’s plenty of support and resources available
One thing we haven’t been short of is support, comradery and resources. People have kindly offered up their time and experience and created guides and toolkits to help the wider community.
Here are some of the ones we spotted:
If you have any others to add, let us know!
Internal communicators are pretty awesome
Yes, this is stating the obvious, but the last few weeks have really showcased the commitment, passion and talent of internal communicators across the world. Long days followed by long nights with an ever-changing situation that no one fully understands.
Despite this, people in our profession have made time to share advice and experience, listen, commiserate, and just check in on each other.
So, to all of you internal communicators out there doing an incredible job, we salute you!
And just a quick reminder that we regularly work with amazing NHS comms teams from across the country. So, we’re offering £20K of our time (for free) to help wrestle with the virus. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about what we’ve been doing.
By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas