For far too long, we, the communicators, have not had a seat at the table. In internal communications, we would passionately complain about our inability to join the important C-suite conversations, yet we would cheerfully publish whatever messages senior management ordered us to distribute without thinking any further.
Some senior managers have already embraced the cultural change towards flat hierarchies, the ongoing dialogue with various publics and the uncontrollable exchange of opinions online. But a lot of us communicators have not yet realized that our home turf has also fundamentally changed: Not only do we have to cope with the 24/7 news cycle, use video instead of text heavy statements, embrace the ongoing shift from desktop to mobile computing. Anybody out there who has had some employees engaging in passionate online discussions or even revealing company secrets via Facebook and Twitter?
Nowadays, we have to monitor everything that is going on in and around our organization, put it into perspective and translate the meaning into business lingo so that senior managers can understand it.
In this world, communications is increasingly becoming a key player between C-suite and the rest of the world. However, we have to work hard to justify this role. Hiding behind the simple equation
Employees Informed by Internal Communications = More Engaged and Thus More Productive
does not work. We have to constantly question our role in order to not only do the things right, but to actually do the right things. We must focus on the business value of everything we are doing in order to merit the status of trusted advisors. And we have to find solid metrics to prove without reasonable doubt that we are actually contributing to the success of the organization. Otherwise some simple sales figures can easily reveal the exact opposite.
But what exactly are the appropriate KPIs?
Today I had the honor of addressing a croud of communications professionals and senior managers at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Rueschlikon, Switzerland. Apart from the fact that the place is stunning, I enjoyed the company of quite a bunch of enormously smart people.
I talked about the change in internal communications: Leaving the times behind when internal communicators had to shut up and disseminate whatever messages senior managers ordered them to do so and embracing the fact that internal communications is all about enabling all internal stakeholders to engage in an ongoing dialogue. Across all hierarchies and about everything.
In my opinion, supporting senior managers to successfully cope with the need to engage in internal online discussions is one of the most important missions internal communications has to embark on. In a system based on interaction, knowledge does not equal power anymore. And having to recognize this can hurt. In ten years (or so) from now, the generation change in many c-suites will have rendered this challenge obsolete, simply because younger managers will bring a different set of communications habits to the table.
More on the change in internal communications to follow later in this blog.
(Please bear with me as this Prezi is in German only.)
I admit it: I am greatly influenced by tons of readings on the topic. But more and more I feel that my understanding of the two expressions “communications” and “public relations” is shifting.
Until fairly recently I considered communications – or corporate communications if you like – as the overarching and more powerful concept than public relations. Public relations, in my opinion, was the part where you would do your job happily planning and communicating (and, at least in some smart organizations…) also handle strategic aspects of corporate communications.
But then Grunig (and others) tried to convince me that public relations and communication are synonyms.
I won’t argue with Mr. Grunig. But the longer I think about it, the more I feel that corporate communications is a rather tactical task while public relations is taking care of relationships with publics, which, basically, is very strategic. So PR is the dominant discipline and communications execute what PR, in line with the other folks from the C-suite, defined as the strategy.
What do I take away? I am no longer a communication professional. I am a PR guy!