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Insight: Communication that speaks volumes

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Darren Briggs, head of group internal communications at Vodafone explains the importance of choosing the right communication channel for delivering internal news and company information.



Most companies are highly disciplined when it comes to external brand communication. When communicating with their customers and consumers, they recognise that it pays to be precise about the kind of messages they are sending and creative in the way they deliver them. They aim to do far more than provide information about their products and services: they aim to inspire.

Internal communication used to be seen as the poor cousin of external communications but that is fast changing. Organisations now recognise that to win loyal and committed customers they first need to inspire the commitment of their employees – and internal communication plays a critical role.

Everybody knows that they need to communicate but often what happens in busy organisations – small, medium or large is that people tend to focus on the task in hand, and as a consequence of that, tend to forget about what they should be saying to people.

The role of the internal communications function in any organisation is to act as a conscience to the organisation: to say, ‘are you talking with people?’ And if you are talking with people, think about how you’re going to be talking with them, about this particular issue or opportunity or whatever it might be.”

Of course – however impactful the content of your message – it is unlikely to have much of an effect on the audience unless it reaches them in an appropriate way and at the appropriate time. The alternative means you have of getting a message to your audience are generally referred to as communication channels.

One of the major developments in external communication over recent years has been the increasing proliferation of channels. Advertisers used to put 90% of their budget into TV knowing that with only a handful of channels they would automatically get a large audience. With the advent of cable TV, the internet, mobile phones and a host of other new communication devices, life for communicators is now far more complicated. The same is true internally.

So, what do we mean by ‘channels’? Channels are simply the way you receive your information. To look at it in real layman’s terms, it is about how you get your information when you go home at night. This, in turn will help you to clarify how you would like your company to communicate internally. For example, you might get your news through reading the newspaper; therefore you might think about something in print, like a company magazine. You might go onto the internet, and therefore you might want to think about something like a company intranet.

You might get your information through email, so you might think about email applications within your own company. Or you might want to watch the TV, therefore think about how you could potentially put some kind of business television application into your company. Alternatively you might want to listen to the news on the radio: think about voicemail solutions, where you can send people a little text and say, ‘Listen to this voicemail’.

The point is that frequently what we do in an organisation is over-complicate things. Really, what you should be looking at is how, basically, human beings communicate in their everyday lives. And they don’t do that one-dimensionally; they use many different types of media, channels, however you want to describe it. That’s what it basically boils down to.

Internal Communications: From Information to Inspiration, including further advice from Darren Briggs is priced at £14.99 and is available from www.shoulders-of-giants.co.uk

HR Zone members’ offer:
HR Zone members can snap up a 10% discount on the audio CD by ordering through the website and entering the following code: HRZOFFER06. Offer expires 30th April 2006.

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Annie Hayes

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