We know of the importance of the internal communications department. After all that’s our main audience and clientele! If you’re reading this, you’re probably a comms pro with an internal communications plan that you’re positive will finally bring your organization together, increasing engagement and morale. Maybe it’s an exciting newsletter in Outlook, or a new way to introduce new hires.
However, it’s possible that not everyone shares this point of view.
When it comes to getting resources for your internal communications plan and strategy, it’s better to err on the side of over-preparation and thoroughness than assume your exec team knows of the undeniable importance of internal comms.
Not only will your internal comms campaigns be more efficient by involving key internal influencers, you’ll need resources and budget for your internal communications plans. For this, execs will want proof (metrics!) that your different campaigns are in fact increasing employee engagement, retention, and helping the bottom line.
According to Harvard Business Review, studies show that senior executives dismiss good ideas from below far too often, largely for this reason: If they don’t already perceive an idea’s relevance to organizational performance, they don’t deem it important enough to merit their attention. Internal comms managers have to work to alter that perception.
Let’s go over some ways to get that so very important executive approval!
3 Tips to Get Executive Approval for an Internal Communications Plan
1) The Earlier You Get Buy-in, The Better
It’s easier to get approval and buy-in when leadership feels they also had a role in shaping the strategy, no matter whether that feeling is real or perceived.
For a successful communications strategy, early executive buy-in is crucial, according to Jane Lawrence, internal comms manager at Northumbrian Water Group, which in 2016 won the HR Excellence Award for Most Effective Communications Strategy.
“It was important for the senior leaders to be walking the walk, and not just talking the talk, when it came to our strategy. It was underpinned by their support and ensuring they were visible through all the stages,” affirms Lawrence.
This sentiment, of the importance of getting executive-buy in, is also shared by Advita Patel, internal comms specialist at the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. We had the chance to chat with her about the current state of internal communications and about how internal comms pros can become trusted advisors.
“I do think that we need to stop talking about having this ‘seat at the table’ and start working towards building ourselves as trusted advisors,” she says. “I know it’s been a bug-bear for many over the years that we are not taken as seriously as our PR friends, but I find working with leaders on a 1-2-1 basis and building trust is more impactful than sitting around a boardroom table.”
She also adds that, once you’ve built your trusted advisor status among the c-suite, you’ll be invited to these meetings without having to push on the door.
When we talk about becoming a trusted advisor, we’re talking about providing important value to the organization through your internal communications plan that allows the c-suite to still guide the tone and official voice of the organization, which is particularly hard in today’s era of disruption.
2) The Numbers Don’t Lie
A key to getting your executives excited about any particular internal communications plan is to transition from the subjective to the objective. Whether your organization believes in the power of IC, or even whether your executives like you or not, if you have the numbers to back up anything you pitch, the value of your IC campaigns becomes undeniable.
For this to happen, you need to use metrics to demonstrate the impact of your campaigns. Whether it’s a launch campaign about using the new system for submitting expenses, or a PSA about dishes in the kitchen sink, always send management a detailed picture of the “before and after.”
By tracking everything, from email opens, engagement, link clicks, location and even devices used, you’ll be able to make your communications an objective science. Tracking and analyzing your internal communications plans at an individual or granular level benefits your team in two ways:
1) It allows you to see what content resonates best with your employees.
2) It enables you to have solid proof of the impact you’re having on the organization at large. That’s a win-win!
3) Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem
An integral aspect of whether you get approval for your internal communications plan is to highlight the solution rather than the problem you’re trying to solve. We’ve all been in those meetings where everyone is vocal about the problems in the organization, but no one seems to suggest any solutions.
Don’t be that person. According to experts Susan J. Ashford and James R. Deter, those who suggest thoughtful solutions when speaking about a problem were more successful at influencing executives than those who just highlighted problems.
“Proposing a solution signals that the seller has put thought into the issue and respects leaders’ time. Indeed, recent laboratory research shows that people think more highly of issue sellers who suggest solutions,” the writers found.
Getting approval from executives to execute your internal communications plan isn’t a discrete event, it’s an ever going process that starts with early buy-in, collecting proof (data) that your strategies work, and making sure you’re always pitching solutions and ways to improve processes around the workplace.
Do you have any other ways you’ve gotten executive buy-in? Share them with us in the comments below or tweet at us!