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Great internal communications is like your best friend

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Great internal communications is like your best friend

Why do certain internal comms (IC) campaigns work better than others?

I’ve spent time creating and executing some that don’t get the outcomes I was hoping for and yet others I’ve turned around quickly on a gut instinct can have a huge impact.

This has become clearer to me over the last year. A year ago, I was approached with an idea to engage all staff (1700 people) in an event that had to happen imminently (two weeks) and the agenda was yet to be set. The only other requirement was that it just needs to be successful. Not a big ask, then.

This set my anxiety and excitement off all at once.

The anxiety in me said: “I love the idea but that’s a lot of work, not to mention pressure, for something that’s failing at the first hurdle. All I see is work and pressure and ultimately a poor reflection on my team when no one attends this event with no name. Ahhhhh!”

But the excitement in me said: “That sounds like a challenge! Why not? This is something different and new that could really reach people. If no agenda has been set, we’ll set one and mould this to something brilliant. Let’s get creative! Woohoo!”

I’m pleased now that we went more with the latter, we took control and while we didn’t go to the extreme of creativity, we definitely pushed our boundaries and went with our gut. We also tried to keep things as simple as possible where we could to ease that pressure.

That first event I felt like I held my breath for the duration, but it was worth it. The outcome and feedback was great. 82% of those that completed the feedback form said they would recommend the event and that it reached their expectations.

Comparatively I ran an internal campaign that was six months in the planning, which did not achieve the desired outcome at all. The subject was shrouded in frustration by staff, but I thought we could really improve this with better IC.

Finally, I thought, proper planning, I love a good comms plan almost as much as new stationary! But it seemed that no matter what we did, the damage was already done and we just couldn’t get the buy-in.

So why did the ‘gut instinct’ IC event work and the ‘wonderfully planned’ IC campaign bust?

Consider the attributes that make a great friend:

  • Honest– They tell you the truth and can tell you anything, even stuff you don’t want to hear.
  • Dependable– They are always there when you need them and you know where to find them.
  • Honourable– They have high moral values, which often compliment yours.
  • Authentic– You just get each other and know what each other is about.
  • Engaging– Inside and out.

These attributes also make great internal comms. If you don’t have all, or at least a few of them, that’s when your people don’t buy-in to your comms.

Even though the event felt rushed it had all of the above elements, unlike the campaign which was planned and timely but lacked in most of those key essentials.

I’ve worked out that that just like a great friend, you need all of the above to make great internal comms and if you’re missing one people can tell and the legitimacy is lost.

I hate missed opportunities and that often comes from doing things in a rush and lack of planning. However, I have to be careful that these feelings don’t prevent spontaneity and creativity. Sometimes you have to just go with your gut, take the leap and see what happens.

Sometimes you have great ideas but the timing isn’t quite right. Don’t get put off from trialling something again and keeping it in your back pocket because it might just be that the timing isn’t right.

An organisation needs to be ready for your great idea, but when that happens it’s awesome.

And like a good friend, you can celebrate together when it does.

Katie Jones (@mumseybythesea) is Internal Communications Manager for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.


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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

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DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

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Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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