Bad busy: the danger facing in-house internal communications teams
Recently I was reminded of the importance, especially for smaller in-house IC teams, to pinpoint how the outcomes of their work aligns with and enables the company’s strategic goals. The answer differs business-to-business, team-to-team, of course, but it demands an honest appraisal of the exclusive impact you and your IC team make.
I was one of the seemingly few who appreciated Cosmopolitan’s now infamous satirical article poking fun at internal communications professionals. It wasn’t especially funny, but I did recognise an underlying truth in the busybusyverybusy punch line.
If you do what the article’s researcher obviously did and search “internal communications” on social media, you’ll see no shortage of energy by those in our field. I confess my enthusiasm for the job occasionally spills over into social media; maybe that’s why it probably felt a bit too “on the nose” for some.
But the truth is – we are busy. Very busy. That’s to be celebrated – at least, the right kind of busy is. There is such a thing as “good” busy and “bad” busy.
For a number of in-house IC teams I’ve met and worked with, their workloads are stretched through restricted resource and under-developed support networks within their wider business. While this doesn’t eradicate their talents and palpable energy for the role, it does inevitably constrain the impact they can make.
A great question I love to ask at the outset of working with them is “What would happen if you weren’t here?”. Think about that for a moment – if you magically disappeared in a flash, how would the business change? What would (and wouldn’t!) happen? Be brutally honest. Because the answer to this provocation tends to throw-up greater awareness of the current influence and impact the team has; it may also shed light on where efforts might be adding less value than desired.
Deeper exploration of this question should enable you to ratify your team’s effort. It will likely generate valuable talking points to share with senior stakeholders, as you plan the shape of your team and the outputs requested of you. It’s also the foundation to build meaningful measurement on.
I’m not encouraging debate on the overarching value of good internal communications; that ship has already sailed – and is exactly the reason why IC teams are busier than ever, more appreciated and seeing more investment as a result. But the danger still remains that the resources we do have are finite and are too often taken up by the wrong things.
Too few in-house teams have defined exactly how and where their efforts are best employed. They are hard-working, they have smart ideas, they have all the ingredients for success. They are busy… but not always on the right things.
Andy Payne, Director of Internal Comms