Neal interviews Internal Communications expert Rachel Miller while in London about the role of internal communications, internal communications versus public relations, and internal communications best practices.
[01:30] Introduction of Podcast Guest, Rachel Miller
[02:50] What is Internal Communication?
[03:27 Internal Communication's Role
[05:09] Why A Separate Internal Communication Department/Specialist is Important
[07:58] Clients Rachel Works With
[08:29] Rachel's Blog URL
[09:39] Rachel's Advice
[12:34] The Approach Rachel Recommends
[14:20] The Biggest Social Media Need in the Market
[16:26] Make A Difference
- The key function and the key role of in internal communication is really to equip and enable and empower employees to have a voice inside an organization.
- So good internal communications, inside organizations are once you really understand the reality of the of the culture of the workforce.
- But it's more important than ever before that we really understand that it's not about the egos of being total communicate, it's about information flow inside organizations.
- And that's why I think internal comms is important is because it is that consistent message, it's that reality of understanding the workforce and understanding the culture and making it real for people.
- You know, communication is about real people telling real stories about what you know what they're working on. So I think that one of the key roles for internal communicates is in be in separate function as a distinction is to be that functions to be those eyes and ears.
- So my advice always is you need to understand where you're going as a business, you know, what's important to you understand where the conversations are happening, and then make smart choices to figure out what what makes sense.
- Part of my role is really helping companies to think through that and not just introducing something because it's nice to be seen to introduce it, but really think through what is the behavior that we're trying to drive and how we need to communicate differently as an organization? And what do you expect from employees expect from you as a result?
- I think rather than thinking through organizations, I think what's important is for internal communicators, to equip themselves and to learn and I'm doing lots of coaching and lots of training here in the UK, particularly with groups of internal communicators to really get them aware of what's out there.
- Keep on sharing good stories, keep on doing what you're doing and constantly looking to learn and grow and make a difference for your employees.
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Welcome to maximize your social actionable advice on how your business can maximize your social media presence. Now, the host of maximize your social, social media author, speaker, consultant, and founder of maximize social business, Neal Schaffer. Every everybody this is Neal Schaffer, welcome to another episode of Maximizer soul show as I like to do, I am on the road. And if you've been following me this week, I am actually in Europe, I spoke at Social Media Week, Copenhagen had the luck of being able to speak at the United Nations city there, I believe it's the headquarters for the World Health Organization, who interviewed me afterwards, but much an honor to speak about Social Media for Nonprofits and, and government organizations. And I was able to speak at the headquarters of Maersk, the big shipping line that we all know of leveraging LinkedIn for corporations. And then I was off to Helsinki, Finland, where I spoke for the University of avascular, which is located about three hours north of Helsinki, and actually helping their executive MBA program not only engage with their alumni, but basically taught a social media module for their current students on the future of business. And now I am in London, England, and I am at a pub inside the Paddington railway station, if you've ever been to London, you know, that's where the Heathrow Express drops you off. And I am here. And it's really an honor for the first time to meet and well, we're already on our second or third beer here. So in all honesty, we've already met and we've already gotten acquainted, but I am here with none other than the internal communications alumni contributor from maximised social business, Rachel Miller, Rachel, say hello, and your British accent. And there we go. And it's amazing. We've been here where I guess there's a pretty important rugby match going on. And we saw Scotland beat Italy at the last moment. And we're seeing England and Ireland play right now. And it's pretty loud as you can hear, but we're in a British pub. And it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to do a podcast here. And I just could not pass on the opportunity. Now, Rachel specializes in internal communications. And we were just talking there aren't that many people in the United States that specialize in and we were we the name Shel Holtz came up Scott, Monty. And as we were conversing, and I know that in the United Kingdom and throughout the world, it is a popular discipline. Perhaps it's a popular discipline United States as well, but very few are active on social media. I don't know, maybe we can start with the podcast of just describing the role of internal communications, and how important internally, that role becomes in the age of social business and employee advocacy and everything we've been talking about.Rachel Miller:
Yeah, so So internal communication is anything it's ever been as important as it is, right now. The key function and the key role of in internal communication is really to equip and enable and empower employees to have a voice inside an organization. So good internal communications, inside organizations are once you really understand the reality of the of the culture of the workforce. So it's no good, you know, just sending out stuff, just sending out employee magazines and having an intranet that's written for employees, if it's not done with them,Neal Schaffer:
which is probably 99% of the businesses out there, right? Yeah, absolutely.Rachel Miller:
You know, for many internal communicators, the role is changing. I think we moved now from content creators to content curators. So because of the rise, particularly of social media, and you know, different platforms internally, where it's not just the comms team anymore, who send out stuff, who who are the sole voice in an organization, your employees now have the ability, and as they do, they create content. So our role has changed. And we now still have to make it make sense. But it's more important than ever before that we really understand that it's not about the egos of being total communicate, it's about information flow inside organizations. And our role really, is to stick it together, if you like and make it make sense. So strategic narrative, as we call it, the story of your company needs to make sense. So internal comms, really, even the name is confusing, because we it's not just internal. We have stakeholders, we have third parties, we have union officials, we have works councils, you know the list is endless. So the true nature of internal communication is that it's never really purely internal anymore. Social media does have a role to play in that but you've always ever been, you know, an employee magazine left on a bus away from your internal messages going external. So people who think you can control internal comms and control messaging, a bit foolish, I think, it'd be fair to say, but as far I love it, it's fascinating. It's a brilliant area to work in.Neal Schaffer:
So maybe in the United States, the role of internal communications perhaps is done by the public relations or Corporate Communications Department. Can you tell me about what you see in the United Kingdom? Is there friction within the organization's? Do you have a common goal? How would we better understand why we would want to have a separate individual internal communications specialist or department? Rather than let a public relations Corporate Communications just do everything? Can you comment on that?Rachel Miller:
Yeah, I think it varies by company. So I've worked in organizations where, you know, you have separate internal comms, who report directly into the board, and you have a board member as part of the comms team. All well, you report into HR, for example, and the HR director is on the board. So there is a real kind of disconnect there between, depending on on the organization, in terms of whether it's good to have an internal and external and corporate human, there's so many hats, we have, you know, public affairs specialists, we have CSR, we have internal external, the list is endless. Frankly, I think the benefit of having solely dedicated internal comms professionals is the you are the eyes and ears and the conscience of the organization. So you need to be tapped into that network, you need to be tapped into what's happening inside your organization. But I always advocate working very, very closely with your colleagues, with your external partners, because for your employees, if they have one understanding of perception of your company internally, and then their friends and family have a perception externally based on all the good advertising and marketing that you're doing. If they don't match up, you're not doing a good job. So it needs to be consistent your brand identity needs to flow from the inside out, not not just the outside in. And that's why I think internal comms is important is because it is that consistent message, it's that reality of understanding the workforce and understanding the culture and making it real for people. You know, communication is about real people telling real stories about what you know what they're working on. And the thing when you have a really glossy, shiny marketing campaign, external recruitment campaign, and it's full of stock photographs, it's not your real people doing real jobs, your employees can't identify with that, because that's not their reality of their organization. So I think that one of the key roles for internal communicates is in be in separate function as a distinction is to be that functions to be those eyes and ears.Neal Schaffer:
And it's very interesting, because my perception, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, of the public relations, people and departments that I've worked with in the past, they're not one with the employee, they're more of controlling the brand controlling the message in a different way that traditional marketing has been. Whereas you're what you're talking about internal communications, you are one with the employee, and really trying to break down any differential between brand perception and employee perception. And there's a lot more to it than that. But you work with a lot of companies here, and a lot of organizations, the United Kingdom, on internal communications and leveraging social media as part of internal communications. Can you give us a snapshot into sort of clients you work with? The challenges they have? And the solutions that you offer?Rachel Miller:
Yep. So So we work with a number of different clients, a number of different projects and scenarios that they find themselves in? It's everything from internal strategy to how do we look at social media and social tools and technologies and understand whether it's right for us. And I've written a blog on internal problems, and particularly on how to use social media for internal comms, the last five years, and this is an increasingly noisy space.Neal Schaffer:
And I want to make sure that we let everybody know what is the URL of your blog,Rachel Miller:
the URL is all things I see. So you looking to turn a book.com.Neal Schaffer:
All things ic.com And app all things I see on Twitter,Rachel Miller:
that someone thanks very much. So the conversations I'm having people in my clients are usually around things like, so we're thinking through this social thing. And we're trying to explore whether it's for us or not, is it isn't the right thing for us to do? So my there's not a blanket answer. There's not a one size fits all. And if I said there wasn't I will be doing my job properly. SoNeal Schaffer:
there's no cookie cutter approach. Right? Exactly.Rachel Miller:
Yeah, that's exactly. And I think, for many organizations, take a step back, you know, what do you want to achieve? What are you thinking about? What is it that you want employees to think feel do so differently as a result of thinking through social technologies. So for many companies, we just simply added another channel. So you add in chatter, or Yamo, and enterprise social network, and you just increase the volume and you increase the noise and the conversation in your organization, you don't actually link it with your business strategy. You have a social strategy, which is not aligned with your business strategy, then it's not going to work. So my advice always is you need to understand where you're going as a business, you know, what's important to you understand where the conversations are happening, and then make smart choices to figure out what what makes sense. So it has worked recently with tullow oil, Africa's largest independent oil company, and we're doing projects together at the moment doing it for about five months so far. So going on for a good few months this year, and we're looking at how do they currently communicate and moving from SharePoint 2010 2013, beginning Yama and looking at their culture to understand if you're an entrepreneurial organization, and you have very, very smart people working for you, for example, many companies finding it's a bit of a power source bit of a power struggle thing, where if you have information in your knowledge area within your function, your division, and many companies are very siloed. In this, you know, you have lots of good knowledge that's kind of locked away the nature of social technologies, it makes previously invisible conversations visible. But there's a mindset shift, there's a behavioral shift there, and a cultural shift for many companies. So part of my role is really helping companies to think through that and not just introducing something because it's nice to be seen to introduce it, but really think through what is the behavior that we're trying to drive and how we need to communicate differently as an organization? And what do you expect from employees expect from you as a result? It's fascinating, absolutely fascinating area to beNeal Schaffer:
in, I always say that. Companies, and they're still companies that are just getting started in social media, right? And getting to the point where you're working with companies. And really, it's we're talking about the evolution of social business in general. It is an evolution, you can't just leapfrog from not doing social media externally. And it's funny because I see organizations that have adopted Yammer chatter. But their employees, for instance, if they're not really appreciated Twitter themselves, they're not going to get the full value. And obviously, the business strategy as well, the objectives. Also, a lot of that companies don't really think that through.Rachel Miller:
So silos as well, I think for many organizations, they have a very siloed hierarchical organization. And then they think that, you know, social media is this magic silver bullet is going to be the answer to break down the silos. And what you see very often is they recreate their groups or they identify with so in Yammer, you have you your networks. Who was there wasNeal Schaffer:
no Ireland just scarred? No. Blimey, I'm loving. Ireland, five, England three, we still got 40 minutes or so left, okay.Rachel Miller:
Sorry, made me distracted by the rugby. So what we often find is that for many companies, they just recreate what they know. And they end up building their own silos again and replicating it in Yammer, for example. So you can actually be social silos. Right, legally, that's exactly it. So a well thought through strategy and a well through thought through plan is one that really, you know, takes a massive step back before you really embark on anything like this and say, you know, what's the point? How do we want to be, and you make incremental steps that are new, but it still feels like your organization, not making a massive step change. So your employees identified it, because we very often find it if you have, you know, if it's led by it or comms, you have it and comms or an enterprise social network talking about it and problems. And it can do so much more than that. So I think an approach that I recommend always is to whoever is live live is live by it or comms whoever is behind the idea of thinking about, you know, social tools, technologies and the mindset, then you need to have a cross functional working group. It can't just be driven by it, or driven by comps. Because by the nature of true social business, it's about your business. It's not just about a function.Neal Schaffer:
Such as Ireland got tomorrow at 730. No, let even a rugby fan. This is crazy anyway. So we're nearing the end. And I believe you need to get off to your family and ethics. So Rachel has a train to catch. And I'm just thinking Rachel really is a brilliant mind. Hopefully, you'll check on all things i see.com, as well as her posts on maximize social business. She's also contributed to a book that I'll be talking about on maximize social business really soon. But I'm just thinking, how do we get Rachel to get over to United States on business? And I guess the best way is really to ask Rachel, what are what are the clients that you like working with? And what do you see as sort of the biggest need in the market in terms of social media, internal communications? And I think that'd be a good last question to ask to sort of wrap up this conversation?Rachel Miller:
That's a great question. I think there's a lot of need out there for internal communicators to understand what channels exists and what tools exist. So I think rather than thinking through organizations, I think what's important is for internal communicators, to equip themselves and to learn and I'm doing lots of coaching and lots of training here in the UK, particularly with groups of internal communicators to really get them aware of what's out there. So they can advise their in house teams efficiently and sufficiently and to really demonstrate Gravatars and performers, their business partners that we all you know, aim to be isn't total communicating. So I'd love to come to the US. I'd love to come and have a chat with See smart internal communication, see what you're doing, understand what I can learn from you and what I can share best practice from the super smart people here in the UK did some really good stuff making real difference in their organization. So I'd love to share I'd love to communicate by me over I'd love toNeal Schaffer:
join you know, I I've obviously done a lot of traveling and where I think in most aspects, the US really is at the forefront of social media, social business networks, obviously, were grown and you know, born and raised in the US, but internal communications and from our conversation today. And from you know, the book that you showed me and, and the networking, I think this is an area where actually the UK is probably ahead of the US and maybe it's happening in the US is not under the name of internal communications, maybe under the name of corporate communications and PRRachel Miller:
Have you have a good employee comes in work, I think the semantics may be different butNeal Schaffer:
right, but I think that it would serve a lot of American companies well, so if you're in marketing, and I know a lot of you in marketing, listen to this podcast, and you're you're trying to find out or figure out in play advocacy and really unleash the potential power that your employees have. And the bigger the company, the bigger potential. Rachel is a really great person to follow and social to connect with, and hopefully send some business her ways that we can have her in the United States. Well, thank you very much, Rachel, for coming out to meet me today. This stupendous pub here in Paddington, and you know, we all wish you the best of luck. I need final things to say to everyone listening to the podcast.Rachel Miller:
Keep on sharing good stories, keep on doing what you're doing and constantly looking to learn and grow and make a difference for your employees.Neal Schaffer:
Make a difference. That's it for today. Everybody. This is Neal Schaffer signing out from Paddington Station in London, England, in the United Kingdom. Wherever you are in the world, make it a great day. We'll talk to you later. Bye bye. Thanks for listening to maximize your social. We appreciate your iTunes subscriptions, ratings and comments. If you would like to appear on the show or recommend content, please contact Neal Schaffer at Neal at maximize your social.com Thanks for listening and have a great day.