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Why internal communicators should prioritise ‘conversations’ over ‘content’

8 October, 2019
Employee motivation

Understanding is not enough

When an organisation is clear about what it stands for and where it wants to go, a major ongoing challenge is to align employee behaviours with the direction and priorities of the business. Internal communications professionals within organisations fulfil many roles. One of their main priorities is to help employees to deliver the vision, mission, values and strategies of the organisation.

Understanding is not enough and it’s not just about the talk. Encouraging employees to take action on the back of what we communicate to them, and therefore helping them to learn by doing, accelerates the process of meaningful culture change.

 

Aligning behaviours is key

Aligning, or changing the behaviour of people is a complex challenge. The most sustainable way to do this is to change the mindsets of people so that their thinking results in new desired behaviours. Mindsets (or beliefs) are hugely influential in driving behaviour. Changing mindsets is much more effective at sustaining change over the long term. The challenge is that it takes additional time and effort to do it properly!

Role modelling, learning through experiences and providing reinforcing mechanisms are all useful devices in helping to change mindsets. However, the key enabler that can be applied by internal communicators every day is through ‘conversation’. This is a principle that has been applied by psychologists and counsellors for decades with people at an individual level. It’s also a key principle that underpins many coaching techniques. In the words of author Linda Lambert:

“One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever”.

 

Content is not always king

With this in mind, it is a great shame as to how much preoccupation there is amongst internal communicators with creating great content rather than creating great conversations. With many internal communicators having a background in journalism, public relations, marketing or other copy writing career routes, it’s not surprising that this is the case. The increasing popularity in the idea of the concept of the “corporate newsroom” is also a contributor to the belief that “content is king” for internal communicators.

Creating great conversations is challenging in today’s digital and social media dominated world. These are great platforms for sharing content but creating real, organic conversations through them is notoriously difficult. It is also questionable as to whether “conversations” held in the digital world carry the same transformational value as real, face-to-face discussions.

 

Communications or leadership objectives?

We often hear this dilemma played out in the briefs we receive from clients. Their goals will often be a mix of what we call ‘communication’ and ‘leadership’ objectives. Communication objectives are often articulated as building understanding, awareness and knowledge. Leadership objectives will be defined in behavioural, mindset and attitudinal changes amongst the target audience. We would contest that these leadership objectives can only be delivered through focusing on creating great conversations rather than great content.

So, if you are an internal communicator who would like to play a role in shaping consistent, meaningful conversations across the organisation, contact us to find out how our Big Picture approach has done this for organisations all over the world since 1999. If you can’t wait, have a look at this video we’ve created that explains our approach in more detail.

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