Industry News

In a series of articles, we ask some of this year's IoIC Live presenters for their thoughts on why reputation is a critical topic for internal communicators.

 

This year's annual IoIC Live conference brings you speakers with different perspectives and stories on the theme of transforming reputation from the inside out. From managing your own personal brand and maintaining employee morale, to helping leaders avoid negative press, reputation needs to be on every internal communicator's agenda. 
 
The two-day event – this May in Birmingham – will expand your capabilities and your networks, and help you redefine IC's impact, making a difference in a reputation-driven world. 
 
At the conference, Helen Schick, head of internal communication and engagement at Alzheimer’s Society, will look at how the charity is making sure its people can be ambassadors for everything it does.
 
“The most important thing for us is building trust,” she says. “We have open and honest communications about what’s happening, and we listen and involve people, with internal collaboration from grass roots level up.
 
“Your people are more likely to be ambassadors if they are involved and invested,  in the decisions you make.”
 
 
The risks of disconnected external and internal messages
 
Helen (left) admits that internal communicators haven’t fully got their heads around how internal and external audiences are connected.
 
“The people who work for you go home and have their own lives, but they are still consuming content about your organisation – just on different channels,” she reflects. “What you say internally has got to line up with that.”
 
From a reputational point of view, your employees are your biggest asset. If they are speaking positively about your organisation, that, says Helen, is “genuine endorsement”. And if they are talking negatively, the reputational risk is significant.
 
“Businesses spend a fortune on advertising budgets, but if you don’t fully get buy-in from people internally before those ads go live, you’ve missed an opportunity,” says Helen.
 
Alzheimer’s Society has the full agreement of its senior leadership team that nothing should be promoted externally before it has been seen by colleagues. “That’s non-negotiable,” insists Helen.
 
Last year, the charity launched its first major TV advertising campaign – an employee and volunteer secured a walk-on part – and held a special screening for employees before it was broadcast. So when the advert hit the airwaves, employees took to their own Twitter and Facebook feeds to shout about it.
 
It was like a snowball effect, says Helen. “Your employees and volunteers can be proud of being part of it and  prominent in sharing it with their networks. We instantly had thousands of people able to talk about it, which, with the speed of comms, is really important.”
 
 
Building a team spirit through internal support
 
From a different perspective, Amanda Coleman (right), head of corporate communications for Greater Manchester Police, agrees that organisations need to shift the focus from external messaging to internal comms.
 
At IoIC Live, Amanda will draw on incidents officers in Manchester have dealt with to consider what she says is a “massive link” between how you talk to your employees and your organisation’s wider reputation.
 
In the wake of a spate of terror alerts across the UK over the past 12 months, the response internally at Greater Manchester Police to make people feel supported – especially from those at the top – and help them understand everyone’s roles and key learnings built “a real long-lasting team spirit”.
 
“Our frontline officers mirror the organisation’s approach,” says Amanda. “If they go out feeling exhausted, with their heads down and our internal issues or culture weighing heavily, it doesn’t build reputation. Internal communication plays a critical role in making your people feel in control, supported and aware of what is going on. That’s how you build resilience in your workforce.”
 
 
The pressure to win over your people
 
Too often, businesses prioritise external comms, says Amanda. “Of course, you absolutely can’t underestimate the importance of what you say when there are cameras there. It’s easy in that situation to just look at external comms, but when you’re in the middle of a crisis, internal communication is more important. When you’re under real pressure, you either win or lose people.”
 
If internal comms doesn’t feature in your crisis comms plan, you need to rewrite it, urges Amanda. “Then look at how the comms plan sits alongside your wellbeing policies,” she adds, “and not just broadly across the organisation, but within your own team. How will you help your people cope during the crisis?”
 
Ultimately, you cannot plan or calculate positive opinion.
 
“Reputation comes naturally from your actions,” concludes Amanda. “It comes from the things you do.”

Click here to read what fellow IoIC Live 2018 presenters Asif Choudry and Ed Coke have to say on the subject of reputation. Download the programme for IoIC Live and book tickets here.
 

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