Category Archives: Internal Communications

Why internal communicators should emulate the envoys

Internal communicators often take on many guises – planner, writer, editor, director, negotiator, policeman and magician (!) to name a few.

Diplomat is another – and maybe it’s our most important trait. I certainly think so after reading Sir Ivan Rogers’ letter to civil servants at UKREP, the government department representing the UK in negotiations that take place in the European Union, following his resignation as the UK’s ambassador to the EU yesterday.

Putting the politics of his resignation and the reaction to it to one side, Sir Ivan’s letter is a striking piece of leadership communication. While it may well have been intended for external consumption as much as for his staff, it’s transparent, credible and authentic to the outside eye. Above all, it conveys the principles and values he cherishes, which appear at odds with others’ expectations of the EU ambassador’s role in Britain’s Brexit negotiations.

“Never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power…”

“Support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them…”

“Continue to be interested in the views of others, even where you disagree with them, and in understanding why others act and think in the way that they do…”

“Always provide the best advice and counsel you can…”

These are professional parallels we should envy and emulate if we aspire to be trusted advisors. It means getting under the skin of our organisations, understanding how and why people are reacting to change and playing that back to leaders “unvarnished”, as Sir Ivan puts it, so subsequent decisions and actions are supported with a complete and correct picture.

Diplomacy is the skill of managing relations in the best interests of a country or organisation. I think it’s at the top of the list for internal communications development in 2017.


When internal communications is the greatest

Last year, to mark 100 years of the iconic Coca-Cola bottle, we asked our employees to share their best memories of working for us and put them in a special edition of our magazine.

We got dozens – enough to write 100 stories in each of our six country editions of the magazine.

The one I’ve reproduced here is my favourite by far. I share it now not just because of who it’s about, but as a reminder of the main reason I love working in internal communications: talk to people about a subject in a way that connects with them, and you’ll be amazed what you get back.

“Muhammad Ali was the headliner at a Coke event for employees in Atlanta in the early 2000s – his wife spoke for him as Parkinson’s disease had taken its toll. The interaction was truly inspiring and emotional for everyone.

When it was over, I ran around the stage to about 20 yards away and shouted at him: “Champ, champ… you’ll always be the champ!” Ali looked around to see who was yelling and we locked eyes. Instead of getting in his limousine, he made his way slowly over to me – clearly against his entourage’s wishes.

He walked right up to me and whispered in my ear: “I think I can take you…”

He put up his hands and I put up mine and for the next few seconds, me and the greatest boxing champion of all time – maybe the greatest sports figure of all time – shadow boxed, nose to nose. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”


Credit:  Pakpoom Silaphan

Corporate jargon – brave enough to ban it?

It seems reactions to corporate jargon are rising.

Forbes lists 25 ridiculous phrases to stop saying at work, there’s a Wimbledon-style draw to vote for the worst jargon of all time and a helpful flow diagram is doing the rounds to check whether you’re a member of the Four Tops if you ‘reach out’ at work.

Is revolution in the air? Have communicators finally had enough, or is this just silly season stuff that sinks at the start of September?

I’ve blogged before about the courage communicators need to confront jargon. It can be tough to convince colleagues that simpler really is better and we can all be guilty of slip-ups. Also, every organisation and industry has abbreviations and acronyms that are unavoidable to include in our communications.

What’s encouraging, though, is how some organisations have taken steps to ban jargon outright. The best I’ve seen by far is by the Government Digital Service in the UK, which has an excellent writing and style guide for civil servants and a list of words to avoid. Here’s an example of one:

Deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’)

It seems to me that a formal style guide like this gives direction to communication teams and power to their elbow when they’re up against someone who’s brimming with buzzwords.

Does your organisation have a style guide with an emphasis on plain language – and has it helped stem the flow of ‘synergies’, ‘leverage’ and ‘sweat equity’? (That last one is my personal ‘favourite’ right now.) I’m interested to hear from anyone who’s been brave enough to introduce one and see the benefits.