Communicating internally with Carolyn Bobo

This is my coverage of the speech Carolyn Bobo, APR, Fellow PRSA, UNT InHouse editor, gave to some students of the Mayborn School of Journalism on March 15, 2012.

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Communicating internally with Carolyn Bobo

Written by Tanya Nguyen

In our technologically wired environment today, employees within an organization are showered with a staggering volume of messages from a variety of different communication platforms each day. So is it even possible to communicate with a group of people who are interrupted by a new series of messages multiple times each hour of their workday?

According to Carolyn Bobo, APR, Fellow PRSA, establishing and managing effective communication with employees within an organization is not only possible but also integral to supporting goals and achieving success. The key to effective communication with employees is knowledge of the organization’s culture, demographics and variables through the communications process of research, planning, execution and evaluation. This knowledge will shape the communications tactics and styles that the organization should pursue.

Speaking with UNT students on Thursday, March 16, Bobo explained that one of an organization’s key groups of constituents is always its employees, especially when it comes to the task of presenting a unified image and message to its other publics. Employees must be knowledgeable of their organization’s mission, value and purpose in order to support those goals through their actions and, according to Bobo, many organizations underestimate the importance of how internal communications can affect management’s relationship with its employees and their successes.

A clear and effective channel of communication must be established with an organization’s employees to quickly deliver messages about strategies and goals, or to address issues or weaknesses, Bobo said. Internal communications help employees better understand the reasons behind the actions and improvements that they are asked to make. This understanding of their actions’ purposes impacts how the organization can achieve its goals and also helps build camaraderie and internal pride in organizational success, Bobo said. Internal communications also helps employees access other information that they need, including news on benefits, policies and procedures, deadlines, events and updates on the industry’s environment or the organization’s competitors.

Bobo briefly discussed using Hage’s four variables to observe organizational structure and behavior, therefore determining how an organization can communicate with its employees. Centralization and stratification typically promote one-way, downward communication based on the organization’s hierarchy with decision making concentrated among the high-level employees. Formalization typically discourages communication and is focused on the level of rigidity of an organization’s rules and regulations and tends to control its members, rather than coordinate them. Complexity, the fourth variable, has a range of upward and downward communications and refers to the extent of varied job roles and educated, professionalized employees.

Bobo also talked about the different communication style preferences, which research can uncover. According to Bobo, most employees prefer face-to-face communication with their immediate supervisor. However, because of today’s technologically advanced and wired environment, organizations must determine other means of communication aside from cascading information down through the levels of management to the front line employee.

To connect with internal publics, organizations can utilize forms of electronic, print, video, audio and grapevine communication, though the last channel is the least effective according to Bobo. Including the essential 5W’s/H are still useful towards organizing and executing any tactics, but writing for internal communications requires a certain degree of information mapping to align the message’s accessibility with the current, rapidly changing technological environment. Bobo explains that messages should be suitable for online distribution, with short sentences and paragraphs, and encourages the use of bullet points to quickly and clearly present important information.

Bobo also discussed intranets, a website within an organization, as a means of interactively engaging employees by allowing them to add and exchange information, ideas and news. According to Bobo, an organization’s in-house website or blog must be well-designed and functional to successfully engage and communicate with employees. Another benefit of having an organizational website or blog includes the ability to link other relevant content to the message for employees to find more information.

Bobo stresses that all communication and information from an organization must be 100 percent accurate and professional since credibility greatly affects an organization’s ability to reach its goals. Having a clear message that internal publics can understand and support is crucial in effectively communicating with all other publics.

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