New year, old priorities

What should the priorities for internal communicators really be in 2022? They should not be the point issues which routinely appear in the annual predictions for the profession. It’s time for us to take a step back and get back to basics, or to discover the basics if we don’t know what they are.

So here it is, 2022. I wonder how many of the predictions made about the priorities for internal communicators this year will turn out to be accurate? If previous years are any benchmark, I suspect not many.

Hybrid working, employee retention, a tsunami of organisational change, sustainability, efficiency savings, CSR, ESG, digital platforms and wellbeing (again!) all apparently have to be on our 2022 to do lists, as well as keeping the business-as-usual bandwagon rolling. Add you own, if I have overlooked anything.

The thing is, these aren’t really ‘our’ priorities. They are, in fact, the priorities of our stakeholders and the organisations we serve, and the things which we are directed, told and commissioned to communicate about.  

What should our ‘own’ priorities really be this year? What are the things that we should be focusing on for our own benefit as a bunch of professionals, that will put us (and by definition our employers and clients) in a better place by the end of this year?

For most internal communicators the last two years have been a maelstrom of exhausting activity as we’ve battled with the consequences of, and impacts created, by the ebb and flow of the Covid 19 pandemic. We’ve barely had time to think about ourselves and what we need to know to do a good job and, frankly, we don’t need the peer pressure of the predictors to create another lengthy to do list, which puts ‘us’ somewhere near the bottom again in 2022.

Despite what some would say about the widening scope and evolution of internal communication as a function, our likely future incarnations and purpose, and the annual to-do lists, none of this changes the fundamentals which underpin what we do. It is very easy to overlook these basic things in the noisy world of internal communication, where everyone is shouting about the latest trend, fashion and point issue. In 2022, I think it’s time for us to take a step back and get back to basics, or to discover the basics if we don’t know what they are.

In 2021 I had reason to thoroughly revisit some of the fundamentals of internal communication practice.  I was surprised at how much I had forgotten and it was uncomfortable to own up to the bad habits I had lapsed into in the last couple of years to just get stuff done.

Cutting corners and being blissfully ignorant of the fundamentals of internal communication practice is easy to do in our profession, when so many of our stakeholders just want to see output, output and more output.

The uncomfortable truth we are faced with is that anyone can create and distribute content in organisations these days. This should be reason enough for all internal communicators to keep asking ourselves the question ‘what makes us so unique, special and indispensable?’

Unfortunately, in our quest to answer this question and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world of work, it seems to me that over the last couple of years we have been desperately trying to grab onto anything which looks like an existential lifeline. Including claiming ownership of particular organisational issues, such as wellbeing and hybrid working, and adding these to our ever-expanding to-do lists.

This is the wrong answer.

I think that in doing this we have been putting the cart before the horse. These issues, which we have been falling over ourselves to outrightly own, are just things that need communicating in organisations rather than new reasons for our continuing existence. We have actually overlooked the things which really make us unique, special and indispensable in organisations. They are our tools of practice, such as research, planning, objective setting, stakeholder analysis, measurement and change theory. The fundamental knowledge and skills of the internal communicator which most of our stakeholders are largely unaware of, but which are essential for us to do a good job. These are the things which really need to appear on our ‘own’ annual ‘to-do’ lists.

So, as a profession, let’s bin the predictors to-do lists and take some time in 2022 to prioritise ourselves and what we really need to know to remain relevant and do a good job in internal communication.    

Martin

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