Written by Paul Barton, ABC, Principal Consultant, Paul Barton Communications.
Every day, I hear from internal communication professionals who are either putting out a communication fire or chasing a project train that’s already left the station. They want to be strategic but they are overwhelmed by competing priorities and projects that seemingly come out of nowhere. To make matters worse, the demands placed on them far exceed the allotted time they have to deal with it. They are buried so deep in tactics that no one can hear their cries for a strategy.
Sound familiar? For many, it’s practically their job description.
Getting off the “fast food” level of the strategic pyramid can be difficult, frustrating and time-consuming. It can be a challenge to know how to even get started. But don’t give up. There are steps you can take right now — yes today — to begin the climb.
First, let me just be brutally honest: If you’re not sitting down on a regular basis with appropriate executives and your key internal clients to discuss what their top priorities are, what projects are on the horizon, what their biggest challenges are, and how you and your internal communications team fits in, you’re not being strategic. And if you’re not trying to coordinate an internal communications calendar with key events in your organization, you’re not really trying.
If you want to be more strategic, you can get headed in the right direction by conducting some key interviews and by putting together a detailed calendar.
SWOT Analysis Interviews
One interview tactic you might want to employ is conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis with appropriate executives and key internal clients. This common business analysis technique can be easily applied to strategic communications and make you a better business partner.
The table below shows a SWOT analysis matrix adapted with questions for internal communication purposes. Asking questions about upcoming priorities will allow you to be more proactive, and getting feedback on how internal communication is perceived is invaluable.
Ask appropriate executives and key internal clients these crucial questions for insight:
- Has the internal communication team been helpful in the past?
- What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the internal communication team?
- What do you wish the internal communication team did more of? What do you wish they did less of?
- How do you see the internal communication team working with your team going forward?
- How can the internal communication team be more helpful?
Your questions may prompt an internal client to include you and your team in the planning process. They might include communication support in the budget. Your questions may yield insight. For instance, you may discover the internal communications team has an image problem, or you may discover that something you are doing has a greater perceived value to your clients than you realized. You’ll never know until you ask.
An Internal Communications Calendar
In conjunction with your interviews, you’ll want to determine dates for key activities by getting answers to these key questions:
- When do the fiscal quarters and fiscal year end?
- When are internal budgets approved?
- When are the major enterprise-wide software upgrades and the rollout of new software occurring?
- When are major organizational-wide initiatives scheduled?
- When do collective-bargaining contracts expire?
- What are the major cyclical events that affect the business?
- When is Open Enrollment for employee benefits?
- When is the Annual Shareholders Meeting?
- When are the company holidays?
- When is the company picnic and when are the other major employee events?
A good time to conduct such an analysis and calendar setting is just before the conclusion of a major business cycle such as the end of the fiscal year or a business quarter. This is when leaders are preparing for the next cycle to begin. This is when priorities and budgets are formed. And this is when key alliances are forged.
The end of the year is fast approaching. This is your best chance to dampen those communication fires before they start. This is your best chance to get on board those project trains before they leave the station. This is your best chance to make meaningful progress. Schedule those interviews today. Start putting together your calendar now. And we’ll see you on the next level!
This article was originally published on Paul Barton Communications’ blog.
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Leadership & Executive Communications
November 29-December 1, 2017 | Chicago
Video Strategies for Employee Communications
December 5-7, 2017 | San Francisco
Storytelling for Corporate Communications
December 5-7, 2017 | Fort Lauderdale
5th Annual Strategic Internal Communications – West Coast
January 30-February 1, 2018 | San Francisco