Jinfo BlogInternal Communications in an Attention-Deficit World

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By Robin Neidorf

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Abstract

This collection of FreePint articles on internal communications presents a fascinating range of topics. Communications professionals now have a plethora of choices both of device and tool. Identifying the strengths, weaknesses, appropriateness and security of internal tools from SharePoint to email is essential along with familiarity with external tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn. And presentation of information is just as important - interactive figures or multimedia can be much more effective than lines of text... 

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For knowledge workers, two overlapping sets of skills are essential to success: information literacy and communication. Any job, any industry, any level of experience... Each of us must be able to interact effectively with information and communicate effectively with the people around us.

The latest FreePint Report: Internal Communications collects six months' worth of FreePint articles categorised as "internal communications", and it's a big one. 30 full-length subscription articles are included, covering the full range of communication challenges in today's multi-platform, complex and attention-deficient world.

These articles fall into several areas of inquiry:

How Should We Communicate?

Within easy reach of your nimble fingers, you probably have half a dozen communication tools. Should you email your thoughts? Comment on a SharePoint item? Send a colleague a text message? (On your personal phone or a company-provided device?) What about the corporate social space? The LinkedIn group? The internal blog?

The decision about how to communicate requires knowledge of the different tools, ability to use them, and a sense of what the strengths and weaknesses of each may be. That's a fairly tall order and it's very easy to make a wrong, or at least less than optimal, choice.

Those designing and implementing systems need to have a clear understanding of what users want and need from each of these tools. Some of the articles in this collection which provide that guidance include:

Any of these articles, on its own, can be a useful conversation-starter about the tools your organisation makes available and the best way to leverage them. Taken together as part of this collection, they highlight the vast array of tools available, and can even (I hope) prompt a more strategic review along the lines of "What are we doing and why?"

What Should We Communicate?

Let's say the selection of tools is already optimised... Now the question is what to communicate? Different tools offer different possibilities. For example, Nexis Media Coverage Analyzer produces interactive figures that can be easily shared via intranet, internal blog or microblog. Instead of giving colleagues a summary of media coverage, you can give them a visual guide to that coverage.

Similarly, easily available multimedia tools can transform communications from dull to compelling.

Many communications require thoughtful reflection to convey not just the facts but their importance. Sensitive communication is one of the "softer skills" that employers find both increasingly important and yet hard to hire.

You might need to turn the whole idea of "communication" on its head to achieve your goals: perhaps communication is no longer (if it was ever) about one-way conveyance of data, but rather an invitation to engage with information to improve the outcome. New experiments in "gamification" suggest ways to bring this concept into your environment.

What Is "Internal", Anyway?

Corporate boundaries are permeable. Less so, perhaps, for regulated information, or anything still produced primarily on physical paper. But let's face it: if it's digital, it can "leak". 

Sometimes this permeability is a positive development, when it brings internal and external collaborators closer together. Law firms are increasingly investigating and implementing systems that bring their clients into the digital work environment, and collaborative workspaces and tools that reduce delays in moving business ideas between organisations are very much in demand.

But there's a definite dark side to permeability, encapsulated beautifully in one of the most-read FreePint articles of the past six months: Sorry Bosses - You Can’t Shut Down Twitter. What happens internally can easily be communicated externally, and once it's out, it's impossible to lock it back down.

But What About Your OWN Job?

The FreePint Report: Internal Communications offers a lot of actionable ideas, critical questions and cautionary tales. But it's unlikely you have the time, energy or interest to take them all on yourself. After all, you've got your own job to attend to!

Find the communicators in your organisation - often working in marketing, human resources, training, or perhaps even an internal communications department - and send them this report. Highlight your favourite items. Ask how you can support their efforts to streamline and make sense of a confusing world bringing together technology and information. 

Your FreePint Subscription encourages you to do this sharing, with the intention of supporting the value of information - and communication of it - throughout your organisation.

FreePint Subscribers can log in to view the FreePint Report: Internal Communications now.

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