It can feel pretty lonely when you’re an IC team of one, being pulled in all directions with little to no budget or resource. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s a tough gig being a solo internal communicator. The industry seems to be constantly talking about being trusted advisers, measuring ROI and implementing the latest collaboration tools, while you’re still trying to get budget and resource to get the basics right.
But all is not lost, it is possible to be a strategic internal communication practitioner with limited resource and budget. Here’s how…
Focus on where you can have the most impact
It’s hard enough to do everything when you’re part of a team, let alone the only IC person in your whole organisation. So, be realistic about what you can achieve and focus your efforts where you can best support business objectives and have the biggest impact.
Align your activity to areas that are important to leadership and demonstrate the value it’s adding. Get that right and it’s much easier to paint a picture for them of what you could achieve if you had budget and resource.
Find the influencers in your organisation who can champion communication, support campaigns, share feedback from colleagues, and provide insight into your various audiences.
If you want to make it a formal group, you’ll need to set out a clear description of the role and what’s expected of people before asking for volunteers. It’s also important to remember they’re an extra group of people for you to communicate with and engage. So, ensure they feel valued, are asked for their input and are communicated with regularly.
If you want to have a more informal network you can call upon when needed, spend time away from your desk and in the business getting to know colleagues and spotting people who are natural communicators and leaders, people who are quick to volunteer and enjoy learning new skills.
Think of your influencers as part of your extended team, helping you to get a far wider reach and a better understanding of your organisation and its people.
The lines between internal and external are blurring and it makes good sense to work with closely with your external comms team to ensure you’re aligned and not duplicating work. They’ll be producing content all the time and much of it will be relevant to employees and could be easily repurposed – and vice versa.
Schedule a weekly editorial meeting to discuss upcoming communications and where there are opportunities to collaborate. You could also include representatives from other parts of the business so that you have a broad picture of what’s going on, enabling you to be proactive rather than reactive, and spread the load across several departments.
Working closely with other teams can also help you measure the impact of your communications more effectively, as you can agree together what success will look like and use their data to help demonstrate the role internal communication played.
Help people to help themselves
The role of the internal communicator has evolved from creator to curator. Previously, we created anything that was shared inside our organisations. But in recent years, the dawn of collaboration platforms and social media has seen people become empowered to produce their own content.
Not having to create everything, frees us up to do a lot more of the strategic side of our work, so if you’re a solo IC pro, encourage people to create their own comms – with your support of course.
Provide internal communication toolkits that include tone of voice guidance, templates, channel matrix etc, and be prepared to invest some time up front coaching people and editing content. It will pay dividends in the end, helping you work in a much smarter way.
And remember being a curator means always being on the look out for good stories that can become great content. People won’t always realise they have something worth sharing, so listening and coaching will become more important than ever.
Lean on the network
The world of IC is small but mighty. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more passionate bunch of people, ready and willing to help each other out. If you’re ever in a quandary about what to do and you’ve got no team to lean on, turn to the network. Someone will have experienced it, have advice, or a case study to share.
Become a member of a professional body such as CIPR, IoIC, IABC or PRCA and gain access to their members and resources. There’s also an active network on Twitter – just search #InternalComms to join in the conversation, or if you have a specific question tweet @theICcrowd and they’ll share it.
We’re also on LinkedIn, there are plenty of practitioners writing blogs about internal comms packed full of useful advice, and throughout the year there are industry events where you can learn and meet fellow IC people.
Being a solo internal communicator can feel lonely, but you’re far from alone. There’s an enormous amount of support, resources and ways of working, both inside and outside your organisation, that can help you make a real impact. So, what are you waiting for?
By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas