Who writes for your MD?

Does your CEO have a ghost writer?

old-manDoes your CEO blog? Does s/he write articles for your company magazine or intranet? Does your CEO provide official ‘quotes’ and soundbites for your articles? Nothing adds gravitas to an article about the state of the company car park like a quote from the CEO saying how important it is to use spaces appropriately…

Now maybe your CEO, CTO, MD, and Managers already regularly publish their personal and professional thoughts on an external or internal blog – so your company may well be ahead of the rest of us. Technology companies tend to be ahead of more traditional companies when it comes to open communication and un-planned un-reviewed publishing.

Not all senior management feel comfortable addressing the unwashed masses. Staff morale might be low, management may not be appreciated and a wrong word could lead to negative feedback and grapevine grumblings. Communication is crucial to the credibility of the Board, but it has to be good communication, crafted with the audience in mind.

Enter the Internal Communications department, stage right.

It’s no secret that Internal Comms directs messaging – we shape messages and consider the themes that need to be addressed. This in no way means we’re leading the business, but it does mean we’re involved with engaging with people across the company, and helping to shape culture, morale and even productivity.

How the Internal Comms department can help shape your CEO’s messages

  • By listing themes s/he should cover;
    Internal Communications may well be ‘closer to the ground’ than the CEO, and with all the feedback channels, they may well know what’s on people’s minds. The CEO’s articles should address the issues that the staff are concerned about.
  • By reviewing and amending the language and content;
    While leaving the personal ‘voice’ of the CEO intact, an Internal Comms specialist can polish the vocabulary to make it more accessible and meaningful to the audience. The review can ensure that the audience is kept in mind so that nothing is said, while innocent, that could inflame a situation on the ground.
  • By writing the first draft of the whole message and asking the CEO to amend, expand and customise the article;
    This puts the responsibility on the Internal Communications department, and it’s quite possible that the article might not ‘sound’ like the CEO or might not tackle the topics that the CEO is actually involved in. If the Internal Comms specialist has a good relationship with the CEO then writing the messages can be a collaborative effort.

I’m saying ‘message’ but I could mean an internal blog, an intranet article, a speech, a presentation or simply a 40 word ‘quote’ for the internal magazine.

Not everyone is a writer; not everyone is a communicator. I wouldn’t know the first thing about running a large company and juggling share holders and finances, and I don’t expect serious business people to know everything about tone, voice, relevancy, context, timeliness and how messages can ‘land’. That’s my job.

I do expect serious business people to recognise the importance of communicating with people across the company, and the enabling power of good clean honest comms. I expect great things from our leaders, and they should expect great things from our Comms teams.

If you’re a manager at any level in any size company, a good way to impress and motivate your teams and departments is through good communications. Imagine how your career might develop if your teams and departments share your vision and goals? Get the Internal Communications department involved with your objectives and comms, and see how fast your career takes off! Imagine how managers above you will feel when they see you creating better results for the business! Ignore the power of Internal Comms at your peril!

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Photo credit: * hiro008

1 comment
  1. Hi Wedge
    I couldn’t agree more! The Internal Comn team has a critical role to play in contributing to a company’s achievement of its strategic objectives.
    It means, of course, that all communicators (internal, external, corporate, specialist, whatever) really need to understand the business – and from the point of view of the CEO, CFO, COO, etc.
    In my view, it’s not enough for communicators to think solely about functions/tactics, or even how our overall com’n strategy supports the achievement of business strategy.
    In order to provide useful advice and exec-level counsel we need to understand business drivers, what’s keeping C-suite awake at night, what’s the result on our firm of a 1% change in interest rates or a 5% change in demand for our product, you name it. Only then can advice be directed to the C-suite members in their own language about their own concerns. (For more on this, visit FIR Live #14 of 26 May at http://www.forimmediaterelease.biz)
    For internal communicators specifically, I believe we have an invaluable role to play in workforce engagement. Not only do we assist the C-suite to craft messages, respond to issue, etc but we also have a responsibility to create an environment within which everyone on the workforce can and is encouraged to write themselves into the corporate story – “how does my daily work contribute to the company’s success”.
    Sometimes that means having to convince senior execs that an operational process must be changed or a cultural issue addressed (for example, an individual frontline worker will need effective feedback so the organisation may need to introduce a genuinely useful performance review process) – which takes us back to needing to understand the business drivers so we can advise wisely.
    I’d love to explore this further with people. Feel free to drop me a line at abolandc@bigpond.com or find me on twitter @auntie_abc.

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