comms channels

44’s Nick Robbins explores what to focus on now to make sure we’re all ready for any further surprise announcements, and the lessons we all need to learn from the last 18 months…

Not for the first time in the last 18 months, IC teams (and many other important functions) were put on scramble alert as the government dropped another late-night press conference on us, and left firing up their comms channels ready for an urgent announcement. With it came Plan B, and further tightening of restrictions, including the advice to work from home if possible.

Where does that leave IC teams?

What it certainly doesn’t mean is that we should all tear up the detailed and comprehensive guides, assets and carefully crafted campaign materials that have encouraged people to adapt to a new hybrid way of working. These can still provide a vital steer in the freshly muddied waters. But what it does mean is that there has been a pressing need to get word out through various comms channels about what colleagues should do next week.

Many people’s first thought last night following the announcement would likely have been: ‘What will my organisation have to say – and when and where will I find out what it is?’

Understanding your comms channels

Amid the rush to push out a clear message, it also provided a good opportunity to think about some important questions about the how, where and who behind your communications.

Have you established who is the best voice to deliver this sort of news, which will impact colleagues differently from one individual to the next?

Perhaps it’s best coming from the working group you’ve established to implement and monitor your new way of working (if you have one). Maybe it’s a collective effort from your senior leadership group, who you’ve made more visible (in comms terms) throughout the past 18 months, complementing their leadership acumen with personal insight. It could be you have one authoritative voice who you’ve lent on during the pandemic, your facilities manager, perhaps, or even your MD or CEO, who everyone would expect to see deliver the news.

Have you discovered the channel in your mix that delivers the most penetration, particularly with some people working from home and some people in the office? We’ve helped some of our clients to conduct a comms channels audit over the last 12 months, to better understand how their internal audience consumes communications, and what changes they’d like to see to support them in a new working model.

Now, when there’s urgent news to share with an audience spread over numerous locations, there’s evidence to say which channel to turn to first, and which provides the best opportunities to mop up anyone who may have missed it first time round. Your audience and their working habits will dictate this: an all-staff email might work in one organisation, while a video posted on Yammer, a specially set up Covid channel on Microsoft Teams, or an intranet will have greater penetration at another.

What’s certain is that many people will have questions. From whether they need to come to work on Monday, to whether the Christmas party or activities are still going ahead. This means establishing mechanisms and channels where your audience can ask questions and receive definitive answers.

Looking ahead

With the urgent messages delivered, there’s a slight amount of breathing space to update those new way of working guides to reflect the latest version of the new normal – and a Christmas break for many to look forward to. However, it’s unlikely this will be the last surprise government announcement, and time spent planning for the next one could be the difference between a quickly delivered and widely consumed message, and a comms blackhole.

If we can help you with your planning, comms channel auditing or even just to share some advice over a virtual cuppa, reach out to us today.