Kate Nicholas: Staff comms is not always aided by IT

While the likes of Cristina Odone and Rod Liddle throw their toys out of the pram over their relationships with PROs, the comms industry itself seems more concerned with issues closer to home.

Every conversation with corporate comms directors immediately turns to the subject of internal comms, and the increasing demands they are facing from their boards to develop the skill.

At last week's PRWeek conference on the subject, it became painfully clear that many of these corporate comms directors were coming under increasing pressure from CEOs, who have had an epiphany about the need to communicate strategy and change to their major assets.

Much of this interest may have been sparked by the plethora of gadgets that management can now use to reach those staff. Certainly questions about new media channels and the appropriateness of their use dominated the day.  Never mind the humble internal newsletter, what the delegates wanted to talk about was CEO blogs, wikis and SMS.

There are downsides to technology, however. It is very easy, sitting in a room full of typically white middle-class PR professionals (and therein lies another column), to forget that not all of us spend  our day in front of a PC or accessing email accounts.

Which is probably why the mobile phone emerged as one of the favourite methods of getting to employees. The number of mobiles in the marketplace now exceeds the total UK population, and people have an almost pathological desire to answer or read a text message wherever they are. Which, as the speaker from Metroline pointed out, isn't a great move if you are a bus driver.

People are also territorial about their mobile handsets. Many see them as their own personal domain, the machine through which they communicate with their mates, and there's a danger of backlash when gossip is interspersed with corporate messages from the CEO.

So what do you do if your staff simply tune out from your internal comms? I suppose there are two schools of thought. The first is that you should be fired. The second - which I prefer - is that the staff who ignore you should be fired, at least when they trip up, fail to meet expectations or break company rules because they never read them.

Why should the internal communicator or corporate communications manager take all the flak? You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

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