A few weeks ago the subject ‘internal communication’ surfaced during one of my workshops at a major company. The CEO’s opinion on internal communication had changed shortly before; he now saw internal communication as being equal to external communication. Only operational issues to keep the company moving are exclusively internal. For all other communication internal and external is identical.
I think this is splendid reasoning.
One can wonder why the internal and external messages should be different. Or how can you keep a credible image in these transparent days if there are major differences between the internal and external messages. Furthermore this strategy is the basis for talking about the underused conversation potential of our collaborators.
Reason: 40% of an average company’s collaborators are proud of their job, but they don’t talk about it to anyone. What if we succeed in spreading our internal communication externally via this group of enthusiastic collaborators? These 40% of enthusiastic but quiet people do not keep quiet because they are not allowed to talk. They mainly keep quiet because they don’t know what to tell about their work. As a company you can facilitate the activation process by asking your collaborators proactively to share the internal communication with the outside world as well. After a while collaborators will spontaneously share information. Give people something to talk about and to share their pride, and they will do so.
The outside world will get the impression of a huge virtual shield of sympathy and faith. When the outside world feels that the internal messages are carried out by the collaborators, those messages all of a sudden become a lot more credible; people are free to share the internal story with their personal network or not, there (no longer) are limitations or obligations. The mere fact that they do share it, is a strong aspect in itself.
This column is actually about ‘transparency’. If transparency is important to you, you dare communicating openly. In my opinion transparency is a strong point, not a threat. Equally so collaborators and their conversation potential are a strong point, not a threat. I am still amazed at the number of companies that are afraid of their own collaborators. If that is also the case in your company, you need to check your HR policy urgently, and that is a challenge which goes way beyond sharing internal communication with the outside world or not. Open companies are strong companies, that are ready for this era of conversations, ‘always on’ Internet connections and social media as the consumers’ heartbeat.
‘One can wonder why the internal and external messages should be different.’ The answer is: the different back ground knowledge of both groups. Employees obviously have a far more in dept understanding of the company and its products.
And a basic rule in communication remains: adjust your communication to the knowledge level of your audience. That’s why internal and external messages should always be different.