Evidence based internal communication

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and is the author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

Understanding what the people you intend to communicate with think and feel about an organisation or an issue is communication 101. This is linked to setting objectives that determine your strategy and tactics. As Alistair Campbell explained in a recent speech in Melbourne, “Objective, Strategy, Tactics had always been No. 1 on the list of 10 guidelines for leadership and strategy that I had on a postcard I always carried with me”.

Without research you cannot set meaningful objectives, yet too often internal communication research is confined to room 101 as being too difficult. That’s why I set up a special CIPR Inside working group in 2012, to develop an internal measurement matrix as a framework that practitioners could use.

Apart from knowing how to conduct research there is also another issue we have to address. It’s survey fatigue as a result of endless engagement surveys. It seems that engagement surveys “trump” internal communication surveys. This is ironic as internal communication is a key enabler of engagement, yet questions about communication are often limited within engagement surveys.

Let’s challenge the HR led, job engagement led, employee engagement surveys that often lead to little or no action and disengagement. It is more meaningful to spend money and time on understanding communication, especially how senior managers communicate and how far employees have a say in what goes on. However, let’s do this by using smaller scale surveys combined with interviews and focus groups, rather than simply replace a large engagement survey with a large communication survey.

I like Alistair Campbell’s take on reputation in his speech. The one thing he highlights is…strategy; “Ask most leaders, most CEOs, charities, generals, doctors, teachers, policemen, scientists, celebs, or private citizens now too because of social media – what is their most important commodity, and high if not top of the list is reputation. That is built on many things. CV. Values. Attitudes. Record of achievement. Record of failure. Ups and downs. Looks or charisma. Media skills. But above all in my view it is built on strategy”.

Spot on…if it is a strategy that is informed by robust research.