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Structurally sound

At the end of last year, I was fortunate enough to take a sabbatical to work on some creative writing (I know, it sounds fabulous, and sometimes it was, other times I stared at a blank screen while teetering on the brink of despair).

An interesting thing I learnt about myself (yes, there was self-discovery…cue eye roll) was my need for structure. But not routine. Because there is a distinct difference.

For example, at work my structure is working Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday but what I do within those days is changeable depending on who I’m working with or what I’m working on. If I was to do the same tasks during each of those working days in the same order, I would consider that a routine.

I always knew I needed variety in the work I do but I didn’t appreciate how much I needed structure, to the point that I was missing work. When I posted this on LinkedIn, it seemed to resonate with a lot of people and got me thinking about how important structure is and how we can apply it to our internal comms…


People managers pink, purple and blue background with illustrated people holding jigsaw pieces in front of a laptop with the wording 'strategy brings a team together behind a common goal'

Many internal communication teams provide regular briefings to their people managers which is great. But where they often fall down is by being too prescriptive. From an internal comms point of view, you’ve created a structure around people manager briefings but for them, it might seem like a set of rules. That’s why it’s important to provide a level of flexibility within the structure of the routine briefings.

Why not keep the timing and format of the briefing document the same but allow people managers to share the messages in a way that suits their style and that of their team? Afterall, they know their people best and will be able to translate messages into something meaningful.


Internal comms strategies

Not all internal comms teams have strategies – maybe there’s been a change in leadership and they’re waiting for clarification on the organisational strategy. Or maybe they haven’t had time to write one due to constant firefighting. Or maybe things change so often it’s not worth writing one…?
A strategy is a high-level outline of what you want to achieve over a period of time (a structure if you will) yet it doesn’t have to dictate exactly how you will achieve it. It’s completely possible to leave room for creativity and to adapt to changing external factors as long as your main aims hold true. A strategy should be a living, breathing document that evolves as the organisation does (so it’s always worth writing one!).

It also helps bring a team together behind a common goal, enables you to say no to requests that don’t support the strategy, and even if the organisation doesn’t know where it’s going right now, focus on what you as a team want to achieve.


Change comms pink, purple and blue background with illustrated lady holding a pen and writing notes on a board with the wording 'even a rough high-level timeline helps create a sense of structure'

Change is scary for a lot of people. And it takes time. Finding structure within the change can help to reassure employees and make for a smoother transition. For example, communicating at the same time each week with an update even if you don’t have anything new to say. Silence breeds gossip and fear, so the comfort of receiving an update that says “there’s no update” can’t be underestimated.

A rough high level timeline also helps create a sense of structure even if smaller activities and events aren’t set in stone and may change. Having a broad sense of direction is better than none at all.


Contentpink, purple and blue background with illustrated lady legs crossed on laptop with the wording 'structure in writing doesn't have to take away creativity'

As internal communicators, content is our bread and butter. And for content to have impact, it helps to have structure. Tools such as the inverted pyramid of journalism and the 6Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why, hoW) provide guidance on how to approach an intranet news story for example.

By getting the most important news up front, you’re making it easier for your reader to digest the information in the order they need it. Structure in writing doesn’t have to take away creativity – there are plenty of techniques to make your writing jump off the page, the structure simply gives it the platform to do so.

Creating structure in your work has many benefits. In many ways it’s freeing, providing you with framework to work within, making things seem more manageable. And as for creativity, I can attest to its ability to not only exist but to thrive within structure.


By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

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

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

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

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

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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