Some time back, we went to a presentation by research expert Robert Berrier, who opened by showing a picture of the Voyager Spacecraft, saying: ‘Right now, the Voyager Spacecraft is flying through outer space and it carries a message about Earth and its inhabitants. A message written in binary code: ones and zeros. We have no idea where the message will land, who will find it, whether they will understand it and, if they understand it, what they will do as a result.
This analogy, at the start of their chapter on audiences, is a good example of what makes Liam Fitzpatrick and Klavs Valskov’s Internal Communications: A Manual for Practitioners such a useful resource. As a communicator, a major challenge with new stakeholders is to gain rapid credibility by illustrating the benefits of good communication in a lucid and convincing manner. The authors’ knack of explaining the essence of internal communications in practical but persuasive language is something you can readily borrow to use in your own organisations.
While it’s essential reading for students of internal communication or newcomers to the profession, it’s also useful for long-term practitioners, HR professionals and leaders too. As a communications professional, it’s tempting to eagerly grasp at new ideas and inspiration that come your way. But that can sometimes mean you slip away from focusing on the essentials of your craft. Internal Communications: A Manual for Practitioners is a great way to re-focus and improve your grasp of the the basics.
Refreshingly, it’s devoid of sensationalism about new channels or the latest fads. For example, the authors pour ice on the theory that Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) like Yammer and Jive are transforming internal communications overnight, despite their impressive potential. Far better to consider social media as a tool like any other, they argue, and not throw the baby out with the bath water.
There are lots of suggested tools and approaches which I expect to return to on a regular basis, including:
- A message palette to help you clearly define your key messages at the start of any project.
- The ‘plan to a page’ format: in my experience, leaders are increasingly disinterested in spending much time on extensive communications strategy or plans, and this provides a practical alternative approach.
- A really useful section on the different approaches and benefits/weaknesses of audience segmentation.
- A handy discussion of basic change theory, and a helpful five-step model to help you consider the basics of communicating change.
- A great chapter on the importance of line managers, covering everything from how to raise their capability to providing them with the most helpful information.
The book draws on an extensive range of sources, including classic internal communications theory from the likes of Angela Sinickas and Bill Quirke – and it’s great to see how much of Quirke’s work is as relevant as ever.
It’s also good to see more attention thrown on Dewhurst and Fitzpatrick’s Internal Communications competency model. It’s a tool likely to challenge any internal communicator’s sense of expertise and offers up a wealth of possible areas to develop – yet one that for me has seen too little exposure since its inception.
Overall, Internal Communications: A Manual for Practitioners provides a comprehensive overview of internal communications, and offers practical tools for any communicator – whatever their level of experience.