Having recently started a new internal communications role, I wrote a post previously on how to prepare for your first 90 days in internal communications. I spoke to a variety of internal comms experts, who shared their tips and experiences on how to get the most value of this critical time.
One of those people also included the wonderful Jenni Field – who you may know as the Founder of communications consultancy, Redefining Communications; co-founder of The IC Crowd, or from her work on the Board at CIPR. Jenni is an accomplished communications professional to say the least, her credibility, knowledge and experience led for some very interesting points in how to effectively prepare for your first 90 days in internal communications.
Your first three months should be full of conversations, both formal and informal. Make sure that your induction includes time with Heads of Departments, PA’s and frontline employees. Make sure you also have a few core questions up your sleeve for these conversations and a rough plan for your first three months, so you can tell stakeholders that you want to listen to their challenges but also how you can help them.
Build your understanding
Get to know the business inside out, and how it works. Meet as many people as you can, spend time on the “shop floor” and the specific departments that deliver what the organisation does. You have to be curious to fully get to know how things work, who needs to connect with who, and how things get done. The org chart won’t tell you this and should any part of the business fall over, you need to know the impact to help with the communications.
Be kind, respectful and humble. I learnt this the hard way in my younger days and it is so important. Goodwill goes a long way, and communication isn’t a skill that everyone has, even though for many of us it feels like common sense.
Take your time
Don’t promise to deliver anything in less than 3 months. You need to take time to listen and understand the organisation. If you come out with big solutions too quickly, it will not be based on data.
There will be quick wins you can implement. I have put in place quick weekly newsletters to round-up news, analysed and kicked off projects to change internal branding, but make sure you’re taking people with you on any change.
Do your research
I have always used a survey to get data about communications in the business – using this alongside conversations means you have a rich data source to draw from. This means you can use it to get budget, show why it is needed and how it will benefit.
If you’re a team of one (which I have often been), then getting external support to bounce ideas around is helpful. Once I had done my research, I worked with a consultancy for a day to go through it and explore what was realistic – I had a weekly newspaper in my head which quickly became a customisable digital newsletter thanks to those conversations.
Once I had my research and my plan, I would go to every department meeting to share it. I wanted people to know what the data told me, what I was going to do and give them a chance to discuss the changes and impact.
People would often tell me that they didn’t really understand what I did until we worked on a project together. This is so often the case for internal comms, so make sure you give people the chance to find out and be open about your ideas.
I think these are six really simple, but effective ways that you can prepare for your first 90 days in internal communications. I especially like some of the ad-hoc examples thrown-in which add a bit more richness and life; particularly regarding her point that you can be quite often a team of one when you work in internal comms. It can be very hard to know that you’re doing the right thing and you often question yourself (I certainly find that I do). So including those small examples of taking a different tact, or lessons learnt are highly valuable.
A big thank you to Jenni Field for taking the time to write these responses and share her views. What tips and advice do you have for someone about to embark on their first 90 days at a new organisation? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @Mandypops