We don’t need more corporate communication channels, we need local level conduits

What local level communication channels are available to Mildred, the booking system admin?

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Targeted comms. That’s the holy grail for internal communications as well as marketing. We talk about ‘considering the audience’ but really, we end up sending a mass email or dumping the ‘news’ on the intranet. And those mammoth mailing lists are not up-to-date, are they?

Sure, I could publish a podcast, pop a video on the plasma wall displays, send a text message direct to everyone’s mobile phone, produce a poster for the hundreds of notice boards or have a leaflet printed for a ‘desk drop’. I could organise a Town Hall for a whole department to gather, or quickly arrange an ‘All Hands Call’ to announce something and take questions.

But we won’t; I’ll be asked to put it on the front page of the intranet – the intranet that everyone says they ‘hate’, the intranet that hasn’t had any financial investment in it since it launched back in the Iron Age (forgive my ranting, my company is now investing a lot of time and money in our intranet :)

No, as a communicator sat in my ivory tower atop Head Quarters, I don’t need any more communication channels. I’ve got a sack load that I don’t use.

What I notice though (from up here, in my embarrassingly tall ivory tower) is that managers on the ground (not at HQ) and people involved with ‘change projects’ don’t have any communication channels at their disposal.

I notice they rely heavily on email. They send succinct ‘updates’ (yay) and crappy, ugly, handmade Word document newsletters (ugh, sigh); or else pay exorbitant fees to external design agencies to ‘jazz up’ their templated newsletters that then get the glossy print treatment. I notice they stick up posters (that veer dangerously away from our corporate style guide) each and every week, and that people like them. And that’s about it.

If something changes at ground level (a new supplier perhaps, or a new booking system) there may not be an overall ‘owner’ of the change so it might fall to just some random, thoughtful, person to recognise the need to ‘tell people’.

That thoughtful person has identified a need to communicate, but as they don’t know everyone’s name, they can’t build a mass mailing list for the people affected. As there’s no Organisation Chart (that’s available) they can’t gather managers’ names. As their department isn’t office based, they don’t bother making a poster in PowerPoint (thank goodness). So what does this thoughtful considerate person do?

Perhaps they call on the Internal Communications department, if they know how to…

… only to be told that:

“the news isn’t of interest to the wider audience and is therefore inappropriate for the intranet – oh and no, we don’t maintain mailing lists – oh but here’s a mailing list that we sometimes use that’s halfway appropriate for your needs – just type “ALL_Mid-Man_FX8_Cake-Dept_Wide_2008” into the ‘BCC’ field of your email program.”

Assuming that ol’ list from 2008 is widely off the mark, what is this thoughtful person with a local communication need supposed to do? Ask their manager to ask their manager to ask their manager to send a ‘manager cascade’ email down the chain?

It’s 2010; is that the best we can expect? And don’t even talk to me about social communications / media inside the firewall!

No, don’t try to sell me a new channel system for communicating ‘sticky’ messages “down” – tell me what channels people on the ground can adopt to communicate change messages up and across.

[Me? I’m going to open up my intranet and decentralise control so I can empower departments, sub-departments and teams to manage their own local communications.] [Wedge]

<!– End rant –>

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

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