The network of internal communicators from Russell Group universities meets twice a year to discuss internal communications ideas and share best practice.
We’ve recently hosted the meeting at Cardiff University – it was a great day with presentations and discussions from the different organisations, and lots of new ideas generated.
Here’s the top five things I brought away from the meeting:
1. Transparency is vital
We need to be clear that our communications are transparent, that we share our approach with staff. Within a higher education context this means enabling staff and students to see where they are being told different things (and why).
There can be a reluctance to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘we’ll find that out for you’, but if you’re truthful and upfront – especially around sensitive issues – people will trust your communications and that you’re presenting an accurate view of the issue.
2. Understanding our audiences
Audience is key to communications. We need to bring our people on the journey with us, so we need to understand what makes them tick. What are the things they care about? How do we speak to their priorities?
3. Building a sense of community
Communications help to build community, to establish and strengthen links between our people. If we understand our stakeholders and communicate clearly and transparently we can build a sense of community, shared values and shared understandings.
Communications should speak from a ‘neutral’ position. We should seek to inform the debate rather than to lead it, and avoid the temptation to join a ‘side’ of an argument or issue. We can use myth busting communications to ensure debate is based on the facts, and encourage healthy debate to question the status quo and engage staff.
5. Demonstrate the value we add
Lots of us tend to rely on big staff surveys which happen infrequently, go to all staff, and have numerous questions. While these are important, I think we could do more to sentiment check on an ongoing, informal basis. Getting immediate feedback is really useful to see if and how sentiment changes over time, as well as enabling us to change our communications in response to how people are engaging with the campaign.