It’s a ‘no’ from me. How to push back on pesky requests.
‘Can you just…?’ – three little words that really make comms professionals shudder.
Maybe it’s being asked to whip up a ‘quick’ poster about parking rules? Or book someone a meeting room? Or order some trophies for a staff competition… (and make them look pretty)?
If this sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone.
There’s a problem with those three little words; they usually come before a request that turns the internal communications (IC) role into a support function. Or you’re expected to magic up an entire strategy in the blink of an eye. Or both.
Is this the best way to use IC teams’ skills? Using our own three little words: is it heck.
Internal communications performs a critical function that has huge potential to help shape an organisation’s success. But, all too often, IC professionals don’t even get a seat at the table.
And, while we all like to be helpful, agreeing to every additional request on top of existing workloads can lead to stress – and risk burnout.
What needs to change?
Fundamentally, organisations need to stop undervaluing internal comms. And, as part of this, that means no longer handing IC the little admin tasks no-one else wants to do.
The same goes for briefing too late on projects. It takes time to plan and execute a brilliant piece of communications. And IC professionals can add more value when involved from the outset – rather than being asked to work with a solution.
Yes, comms pros are great at improving design. But, when involved from day one, at the highest level, IC teams can create powerful internal comms strategies based on years of experience. And work with leaders to create a carefully crafted messaging framework for audience and channel-appropriate communications.
How to shift the dial
So, what can you do to improve the situation?
It is possible to fight back against the ‘Can you just…?’ culture without putting people’s noses out of joint. But first, you need a few weapons in your armoury to encourage leaders and colleagues to change. Drawing on our years of experience, here are some we recommend.
- Manage stakeholders
Start with educating people about what IC is. Go back to basics, create your own manifesto and use it to highlight your strategic potential. Then get out there and spread the word. Don’t be afraid to shout about what your IC team does (and doesn’t do).
- Create a crib sheet
Internal comms’ role is to create strategy, so IC should be represented on the leadership team. How your line manager represents IC in meetings with your CEO is crucial to you and your team. So create a comms crib sheet for your manager. Then, the next time they need it, it’ll be there for them to refer to.
- Get tooled up
While we can’t deny that comms professionals display definite superpowers, *dusts off shoulders*, you can’t do everything. Leaders and managers must be expected, empowered and trained to deliver communications too. Our best advice? Create a toolkit so they can do it themselves more easily and effectively.
The toolkit can include training on how to connect with and engage their team like a pro, plus tips on things such as:
- Organising an event.
- Updating an intranet post.
- Handling big announcements – the challenging ones as well as the feel-good ones.
Your ally here is HR, so it’s key to get your colleagues in that department on board too.
It takes time and effort to create a great toolkit (or you could ask Fresh to help you!) But, by sharing your inner-circle knowledge with colleagues, you’ll end up saving time (and your sanity) in the long run. Let colleagues know you’re there to help and advise – but be clear if you haven’t the capacity or remit to do the work for them.
- Come clean
Do a wash-up after every project. This lets you show all the brilliant ideas you would have come up with if you’d been involved from the start. It’s also a great opportunity to educate people about timelines. Sadly, magic wands don’t come as part of your essential IC kitbag, so make your life easier by getting colleagues clued up on lead times.
A wash-up doesn’t need to be a formal meeting – you could offer to buy a colleague a coffee, and chat about how you could best support them next time.
See, aren’t you helpful?
Expert help in your corner
Saying ‘no’ to requests probably isn’t your idea of a fun day at the office. That’s why having internal communications experts on your side can give you the X Factor. From ways to win over the toughest of leaders to creating cracking self-serve comms, we’ve got loads of ideas – it’s what we do.
Remember, you’re not there to just create posters. It’s up to you to set the parameters for what your team can do, and where you get involved in the process.
Ready to make a change? Drop us a line to talk about how Fresh can help your business in the short, medium and long-term.