We’ve been involved in developing a lot of internal comms work - it’s interesting work and takes you right to the heart of the organisation, which can be revealing. However, no matter the sector of the client organisation, there’s always a pattern to the challenges these businesses face. Whether that’s in the field of internal comms, or more specifically, within the area of Health and Safety. The difficulties they end up facing are always very similar.
Generally, the biggest issue we see is that the responsibility of internal communications seems to fall between departments. Marketing often has some sort of input, but it tends to be the responsibility of HR, the Health and Safety team or Comms – or a collaboration of all four. That’s never a good sign.
With no absolute master, the quality of what’s produced suffers. Sometimes it’s devolved to other members of a team who have an interest in design or creating posters – which is to be encouraged, but controlled. In these situations, what you tend to see is lots of piecemeal comms, with clip art, irregular fonts, forced acronyms and way too many exclamation marks. The main brand is lost to a wave of additional ‘sub brands’ or new initiatives which have all had new logos created. It’s then poorly reproduced through an office printer and pasted up onto notice boards, doors and coffee stations – usually between the Macmillan coffee morning poster and the advert of the guy from IT selling a camper van. Together, all this stuff adds up to a tidal wave of wallpaper which is easy to ignore.
Within Health and Safety, the comms can default to be compliance driven. At its worst this adopts a matronly, overly corporate tone and provides screeds of information with no thought to how a human might read it. The result? Nothing is read, but a box is ticked. Have you ever read the terms and conditions supplied by iTunes? I haven’t, but I do literally tick the box to move on.
But what we mustn’t forget is that this stuff is important and is coming from the centre of the organisation. It should all be driven by the tone of the master brand. We don’t need to create sub brands, or a patchwork quilt of new logos. We don’t need to segment our audiences into discrete groups. We’re all consumers and if the main brand has been articulated properly, then there should be scope to harness the brand, its values and its personality.
Then it’s about keeping the messaging simple, breaking information into hierarchies and digestible chunks. Don’t patronise and be human. Simple!
Our Top Five Tips for creating effective Internal Comms:
- Create an internal steering team with representation across all departments who have been involved (but make sure it’s as small as possible).
- Involve and consult with stakeholders across the business from the bottom up. (This is where the culture really lives). Ask them what they think of the current work: what’s wrong with it and how it can be improved. Listen to them.
- The answer always lies in removing detail from what exists. Simple is ALWAYS better. Ask yourself what’s core and what’s superfluous. Cut it away.
- Look to the main brand to guide the work. It must do the heavy lifting. You’ll confuse and over-complicate things if you have to create something new.
- Be human and use humour. Fight hard to avoid falling into cold, mechanical corporate blah. Nobody reads it. (And it’s patronising which fosters bad feeling).
When you follow these tips you can get some work that not only looks great but is effective in driving home your message. A good example is the internal comms work we've done for Mitchells & Butlers, one of the UK's biggest hospitality brands. If you'd like to talk further about internal comms, the challenges and how we can help, please feel free to drop me a line.