Tag Archives: reputation

The real cost of bad communications

30 Jan

The last blog post I wrote focused on the radical change programme that we are working on in Monmouthshire County Council and I promised to feedback on our progress. So here goes.

I’ve been a student in our Intrapreneurship School* for a few weeks now, and today (working with fellow students) it felt like there was a light bulb moment. It wasn’t because our discovery was particularly new or revolutionary, it was because the way we’ve illustrated it gets right to the heart of the matter. And, it’s pretty hard to argue with.

Like many organisations, we sometimes experience inconsistencies internally. Some people know stuff, some don’t. Information is sometimes communicated well and sometimes it isn’t. This leads to inconsistencies. As an employee, if you’re well informed and you know where to find the information you need then the likelihood is that you’ll provide a better service. If you’re uninformed or ‘out of the loop’ the chances are this will impact on the day job. And it’s this ‘day job’ that’s the important bit.

The ‘day job’ is where you meet the customer, where you provide a service, where you do something that matters. In local government, this is what it’s all about so if there’s something that’s stopping you from doing the best job you can do, sort it.

For us, whilst we’re working hard on improving it, we know that in some areas the flow of information isn’t as good as it should be. When we drill down to what that really means we get to customer experiences. If information isn’t being shared internally that means staff aren’t clued-up. If staff aren’t clued-up how can they answer customers questions? And, we all know how frustrating it is when no-one can answer your question.

So, as my colleagues and I discussed this we thought it might be clearer to illustrate our observations:

cost of communication matrix

For those of you who know your PR theory, this model may look familiar. It’s very much like the power/interest matrix and it works in a similar way.

The quicker you can get good information out to your customer, the more satisfied they will be. You have resolved their issue quickly so, in theory, is less resource intensive.

If it takes you a long time to respond to a customer and you get bad/inaccurate information out to them, they will be really dissatisfied. And if they’re dissatisfied, it’s more likely that they will need to come back to you to resolve the issue or complain. That means more resources are needed.

So, if we put it like that it’s hard to argue with. Let’s get information flowing to those who need it, empower them with knowledge and see what that does for an organisation’s reputation. 🙂

 

*Intrapreneurship School is an internal training scheme that encourages innovation, understanding and shifts our perspective to focus on what really matters. We learn about system redesign and other models to find better ways of delivering/enabling services.

Why is it so easy to neglect internal comms?

17 Oct

Now, I’m not suggesting that this is the case for everyone, but I think internal comms gets a bit of a bum deal. It kind of belongs to comms but also has strong and obvious links with HR. And, somewhere amongst the two internal comms gets a little bit lost. Dare I say it? Neglected.

A spotlight in a dark room

I think there are a few reasons why this happens:

1. It’s not going to get us a front page story

If you work in comms, hopefully you know how great it feels to get really positive coverage from the media. It’s visible; it’s credible (for the most part) and is great for the organisation’s reputation. It’s a quick win so we plough our resources into it.

2. It just isn’t sexy enough

I’ve heard internal comms described as a ‘whinge fest’, a chance for the serial complainers to carry on moaning. Well, if you put it like that maybe I’ll give it a wide berth too.

3. Why stir up the hornets’ nest?

Businesses are trying to survive and to do that they have to make a lot of tough decisions. It’s inevitable that whatever decisions they make, they won’t be able to please everyone so why bother aggravating the situation? Let’s just keep our heads down and do what we have to.

4. It’s not my job, is it?

Like I said above, no-one really knows where to put it. It flits between the comms and HR teams without anyone really taking ownership. With no-one driving it forward it just becomes an after-thought: ‘oh, I suppose we’d better send out a staff email or something’.

5. It’s a tough old job

Don’t underestimate internal comms. It’s not all touchy-feely. In fact, it can be quite lonely. You become the ‘face’ of culture change – the person forcing people to do things differently. One minute you’re chatting to employees over a cuppa and the next they see you through suspicious eyes. Now, it’s not always like that but it does happen. Frequently.

There are probably hundreds of other reasons to explain why internal comms hides in the shadows. All of which are important to note but maybe a little irrelevant. We need to concentrate our efforts on making things right.

In an ideal world, maybe your organisation would have a giant PR team with a nice big healthy campaign budget. Maybe. But that’s not the time we live in. We need to look at things differently. If you want to build your reputation you need to do it from the inside out. Focus on your people. Give colleagues the confidence and the skills to tell your story. Make them your brand ambassadors and it will translate across all areas of your business. Create a customer experience that won’t be forgotten. No amount of PR will get you that sort of credibility. Surely that’s reason enough to put internal comms in the spotlight?

The demise of council publications – maybe?

29 Sep

There is an incredibly vocal debate in the media about council publications and the role they have to play in the demise of the local press. Yesterday, the Guardian reported government’s plans to “crackdown on council-funded newspapers” yet I can’t help but feel some important arguments have been missed out of the discussions.

I accept that there are some councils who really are head-to-head with the local press and publish weekly newspapers, however, they are the minority. There has been much discussion about why we shouldn’t have council-funded publications, but what about the reasons why we should?

Money is tight

As budgets shrink, councils are under increasing pressure to demonstrate value for money whilst keeping their residents informed. It can cost in excess of £1000 for a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper. Is that how we should be spending public money? Maybe. But, if it’s more cost effective to print a council publication isn’t that what we should be doing?

Coverage can be patchy

In many areas there isn’t one sole newspaper that covers everywhere. For example, there are four prominent local newspapers in Monmouthshire that cover fairly seperate sections of the county. Advertising in just one newspaper would exclude others but advertising in all would be very expensive. If a council publication could reach the whole county and everyone had access to the information, is that what we should be doing?

Duty to inform

There’s only so much information a local newspaper can carry about the council before it begins to look and feel like it’s a council publication anyway. For the hundreds of services that a council provides, how do we raise awareness about them if we can’t get it all in the press. Social media and good old websites maybe? But what about those who don’t have access to a computer or the internet?

The new proposals suggest that council publications will not be able to carry any quotes from local residents that endorse the council or its’ services. The first thing I do when I want to buy/try something new is ask people’s opinion. Have you done it? What did you think? If it’s a genuine comment, good or bad, and the resident is happy to make their feelings known then what’s the problem?

Of the proposed rules, there is one I completely agree with: all content must be totally straight and fair. We should be open and honest. Though honesty is not just a rule for council publications, it should be one for the press too.

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