Australian Government,  Blog post,  Communications professional,  internal communications

Why internal communicators still need to understand “the business.”

Last week someone said to me, “I work in internal comms, I don’t need to know about what we do”. It’s not the first time I have heard it. There is a perception (not by everyone) that if you work in internal communications, you don’t need to understand your departments’ programs, schemes or policy. Your job is to work with the staff, talk to the Executive, mange your internal channels, engage with corporate teams about new internal processes and policies. Everything about the “business” is external communications. It’s not your game.

And you would be wrong.

Especially after last year when we had such a focus on supporting our staff some people have lost sight of the bigger picture.

Not everyone thinks like this, but it is definitely a perception I have seen, especially in larger departments where silos are more likely to build between teams.

The resistance of internal communications to get “bogged down” in the work of the department is not unusual. You have enough on your plate managing the communications internally let alone worrying about what your department is talking about externally.

If this is you. Do not underestimate how much of an impact this approach can have on your internal efforts and your relationships across the organisation.

If you don’t understand your department’s business, you can not effectively do your job.

Understanding the business is akin to understanding your audience.

If you don’t understand your business, you won’t know what is impacting the staff, what deadlines they are up against, what is happening in their world.

The worst thing you can do is call a business area about an internal communications project or newsletter article, only to have your head bitten off. “Now is not a good time.” How could you know that it is a peak time for that team if you don’t know their business.

Without engaging in the work of your department, you will also miss out on potential stories for the intranet or newsletter! Creating this connection between teams and celebrating the work of the department is a crucial part of what you do.

What can you do

You may not need to know the detail that the external communications teams do, but you still need to know the basics and you need to be interested.

Here are some ways your internal comms team can get up to speed and stay across what is happening:

  • Ask an SME from the business to come to your team meeting to brief their work or a particular project.
  • Invite the external communications team over for a morning tea or lunch and ask about their work and what milestones, announcements are coming up.
  • Attend corporate briefings or presentations – Often we organise them or promote them but don’t actually attend.
  • Read your organisations media releases, media clips and other announcements EVERY DAY! – Crucial and often something we feel like we don’t have time for. Know your external environment.

Integrated communications

Communications needs to be integrated. Your staff need to know what is happening in and around the organisation. Now more than ever, what is happening in the external world impacts your staff, and you need to be able to communicate to them effectively.

You should be working hand in hand with your external colleagues to align messaging, prepare for announcements and coordinate information. If your staff don’t know what is going on, they cant provide a great service to the public. They won’t be well informed. They won’t be able to see the bigger picture for their work.

This is part and parcel of great internal communications.

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