Internal Communications Pros Share Priorities and Challenges at Attune '22
Internal communications specialists gathered at FirstUp’s Attune 2022 Summit in Chicago Oct. 18–Oct. 20 to learn about boosting engagement and transforming the employee experience in their organizations. Attendees had the chance to hear from keynote speakers, see in-house success stories and workshop internal comms strategies with their peers on topics related to the event's theme: "The Science of Engagement."
Reworked asked several attendees and speakers at the event to share their thoughts on internal comms in 2022 and beyond.
The Importance of Collaborating With Internal Comms
Speakers and attendees frequently described internal comms as being owned “by everyone and no one.” Because internal communicators vary by department, title and focus, it can be hard to definitively determine who has final ownership over strategies, projects and outcomes.
As a result, effective collaboration is essential. Kristin Hancock, VP of community and engagement at ICology, explained that while collaboration has always been critical for comms teams, it wasn’t previously encouraged, leaving communicators isolated in their roles. However, the pandemic greatly exacerbated the need to collaborate across departments, as the way strategies had to be executed changed.
“The good thing is, people are now seeing the value of collaborating with internal comms,” Hancock said. “Leaders realize that they need to look at creative ways to communicate with staff — they don’t have a choice anymore.”
In fact, according to Simply’s Workscape Report 2022, 69% of communicators said they feel more trusted by senior leaders since 2020, often being branded “the heroes of the pandemic.”
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'Communications Bingo' and Setting Priorities
As internal comms has grown in importance over the past few years, so have the potential ways to approach it. Attendees described having to juggle numerous different priorities and conflicting strategies from stakeholders within and outside their function.
Talley Baratka, chief ideas officer at communications firm Lightbulb Labs, described this challenge as playing “communications bingo.” When there is an overflow of new ideas and strategies being proposed, leaders need to figure out which ones will stick. To do so, she suggested potential listening sessions, where all stakeholders can express their ideas in detail without feeling overlooked. From there, leaders can make decisions with better information.
Projects with cross-departmental value are especially strong candidates for prioritization as they unlock trust and stronger collaboration, explained Emily Kirchner, senior manager, communications at Whirlpool.
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“When we look at different corporate initiatives, we need to look for something we can do that speaks to multiple goals across the organization,” Kirchner said, adding that these types of projects also provide employees with a more consistent, streamlined experience than disparate ones.
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Internal Communications Needs a Customer Service Mindset
Attendees also drew parallels between customer experience and employee experience, explaining that organizations need to view their employees as customers and cater to their needs just as expertly.
“The biggest opportunity [for internal communicators] is to own our audience and understand what’s important to them,” Kirchner said. “If I’m responsible for a certain audience, I need to take an editorial lens and target them with information they need to know the most.”
Lori Stewart, senior consultant for Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, explained that their biggest area of improvement has been putting their messaging where faculty and staff are. According to Simply’s report, sporadically placed information and a lack of access to digital channels were cited as the top barriers to engagement by communicators.
“Whatever platforms they’re using most frequently, I want to make sure we have content there, so they don’t have to go searching for it,” Stewart said. “We need to meet them where they are to make sure they’re getting the information to help them do their jobs.”
Feature image: TyneSight Photo | FirstUp
About the Author
Nidhi Madhavan is a research editor at Simpler Media Group, where she creates data-driven content and research for SMG and their clients. Nidhi received her B.A. in Journalism from Loyola University Chicago.