Event Breakdown: Internal Communications – getting the inside right (WGTN)

Internal Communications: Getting the inside right, was a PRINZ breakfast event held on 26 June 2014 in Wellington.

PRINZ Central division held a panel discussion on internal communications featuring Katie Mathison, Group Manager Communications at the New Zealand Customs Service, and Amanda Woodbridge, Associate Partner at Ideas Shop, a full service PR company. The event was well-attended, with 26 attendees in all.

Katie Mathison manages Customs reputation externally and internally across all communications channels. She talked about the challenges faced by the Customs communications team in turning Customs 35-page ‘Towards Customs 2020’ strategy into something exciting, engaging, and meaningful for every member of staff.

The idea was to get everyone’s input, so the communications team decided to chunk down the strategy and represent it visually as a ‘Big Picture’, using imagery to convey the 11 challenges of the organisation’s overall strategy in a meaningful way to staff.

The process took longer than thought because it was important to get input from the senior leadership team, the change programme team, managers, team leaders, and frontline staff.Team leaders held visual sessions with most of the 1200 staff, the concept was displayed in all common areas, and feedback was gathered via the intranet.

There were 18 versions of the ‘Big Picture’ over six weeks. A final time-lapse video of the visual being drawn, with the CE’s voiceover, served to bring the visual to life for staff.

The visual was printed on a large colour canvas at each site and each manager did a site-specific unveiling. It was also released as a Customs screensaver and all staff received a printed copy.

The project was a success and smaller sections of it are used in other communications to link back to the ‘Big Picture’ as a constant reminder. The project was not without its hurdles though, the main ones being time taken from beginning to end, and the difficulty of trying to please everyone.

Amanda Woodbridge, an Associate Partner at Ideas Shop talked about her work supporting a client to share its business strategy with its people. After initial conversations, it became apparent internal communication was ad hoc, inconsistent and unplanned, with a strong reliance on managers making their own decisions about what information to share with their team and when. Before launching the strategy, the organisation needed to rejuvenate how it communicated with its people – otherwise it would be launched into a vacuum, with a real risk that staff wouldn’t have a common understanding of the priorities and changes required.

The first step for Ideas Shop was completing an internal communication audit to understand what was working well and what needed to change to support the sharing of strategic and operational information across the business. Ideas Shop found that while people were engaged, they wanted to see more of the Senior Leadership Team, know more about the organisation and have more timely and up-to-date news. From that, Ideas Shop worked closely with its HR manager and senior leaders to redevelop existing channels and launch new ones, including a team cascade.

With the infrastructure in place to support good communication, Ideas Shop is now advising the leadership team to share its strategy with a leaders’ day planned for later this month.

Getting the business strategy right first and foremost is key according to Amanda – it’s the bones from which a good communication strategy can hang.

All in all, an interesting and insightful session on the importance of ‘getting the inside right’ with the highlight of both talks being the need to work closely with leadership teams and front-line staff to ensure strategic messages are adequately understood and brought to life for staff.

The next two events on in Wellington are:

10 July – Communicating Chinese Style – Register here 

5 August – CEO Panel – Communicating ‘Brand Wellington’ – Register here 


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