Monday, May 7, 2012

Does your communications team have a "weapons" specialist?

No, I'm not talking about actual weapons, but I'm sure you already knew that.

I'm talking about a subject matter expert in the art of communications tools and technology (the "weapons" of a communicator), such as your intranet, enterprise social media, and other tools that enable the rest of the team to focus on communicating.

Ten years ago, your communications team needed to be the best writers in the building. They were focused on writing the flawless email or article, painstakingly crafting every sentence and scrutinizing every word to ensure the tone and message were perfect.

But those days are in the past.

Employees don't have the time (or the attention span) to read pages and pages of prose from business leaders. They want short, concise messages, preferably with bullet points that they can jump to and read to get the information pertaining to them.

Therefore today's internal communicators need to be snipers, delivering messages with concise precision, through the best channel available for reaching their specific audience.

The days of blanket emails to the entire company (or large swaths of employees) that only have meaning or require action from a select few are over. Employees are more sophisticated now and expect their internal communications to be personalized, targeted and, most importantly, directly relevant to them. Their online experience at work must reflect their personal experiences with popular consumer sites like Facebook or

That's where the communications technology and tool specialist comes in.

Enterprises need someone (or in some cases, a small team of people) focused solely on the the tools that internal communicators use to communicate to employees. This includes:
  • intranet management issues like publishing governance, content management, updating news feeds and changing layouts. 
  • identifying systems and processes for identifying your audiences (such as PeopleSoft or SAP HR), that are kept up-to-date by another team who has a business reason to do so, such as HR.
  • determining content distribution models to ensure efficient and effective management of communication vehicles. (For example, where does content originate? How is it distributed?)
  • measuring effectiveness of these vehicles.
  • researching and implementing new tools and vehicles.
  • working with IT to discuss functionality improvements and troubleshoot technical issues.
Without someone in this role, it becomes the "part-time" job of everyone on the team, which means no one has the time or incentive to devise long-term, cross-functional solutions to these challenges. What you end up with is a patchwork of work-arounds that are known by some team members and not others. The result is lots of re-solving of the same problems over and over again, every time they come up.

Having a communications "weapons" specialist ensures that the next time that "weapon" is needed, loaded and waiting in the team's arsenal.

Does your organization have someone in a role like this? If so, does he or she have additional, traditional internal communications responsibilities? If so, is that model working?


  1. Liked this post. All too often this role is diluted and it becomes someone's part time job.
    Unfortunately Internal Communications are still not getting the focus it deserves. Why? Hard to measure success? Companies just don't care that much about the employees and are happy to give lip-service. All I know is that the really "great" companies DO see the value of their people... and if you value your people, you talk to them... in a "language" they understand. Congruent Employee Communication?

    1. Thanks Marius. I think this role is one that will evolve in the next few years, but for now it's mis-diagnosed as an IT role, rather than a communications role. While IT is an integral partner in developing and maintaining our tools, I believe it takes a communication professional to understand the wants and needs of the comms team. I do believe the standardization of this role will happen, but not until Comms leaders "feel the pain" of not having these tools integrated and consistent across their enterprise. Then they'll realize that they need to devote a full-time resource to it.

      And Internal functions always follow behind external/marketing functions b/c they don't generate immediate revenue. Thanks for your comment here and on LinkedIn!