IC AROUND THE WORLD
Views on internal communication from
Director of Formanchuk & Asociados
IC Around The World is a series of interviews with communication professionals from around the globe working in the field of internal communication.
They share their views on the practice of internal communication in their countries, and tell us who and what they are paying attention to in the world of IC.
How has internal communication developed in your country in recent years?
According to Alvin Toffler, men don’t live in one single specific year but in many years at a time. For instance, today we’re living in 2017 but if we hop on a plane and visit a tribe lost in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, we may find out that they’re living in the 3rd century because of their lifestyle, food, architecture, the way they combat diseases, their science development or social organization. Also, if we visit a campus in Silicon Valley we might feel that the people in that community are living ahead of our time, as if they were in 2030.
"All employees and leaders are internal communicators".
I believe that internal communication is also experiencing this coexistence of eras and that there isn’t a pure situation or a linear or homogeneous evolution. And I’m not only talking about Argentina. Through our agency, I’ve had the chance to work with over 250 clients in 16 countries of Iberian America and there’s a coexistence of internal communication eras everywhere, which I classify as follows:
The Dark Era: Companies which don’t know what internal communication is and which are not interested in it. Typical phrase: “We’ve come to be a great company without ever taking care of internal communication, so it can’t be that important”. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
The Awakening Era: Companies which don’t know exactly what it is but which believe that they should start taking care of it. Typical phrase: “I don’t know exactly what it is; however, I increasingly hear people talking about it and I’m interested in it”. mmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
The Fog Era: Companies which consider that internal communication is something like an internal communication agency and that its purpose is just to produce media and to send information. Typical phrase: “We make internal communication because we have an Internal Social Network". mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
The Enlightenment Era: Companies which understand that there’s more to internal communication than just making media and that it is actually an activity which involves all the organization. Typical phrase: “Good media don’t guarantee good internal communication. In addition, internal communication is not owned by the IC department”.
Interestingly, these eras are intertwined even within organizations. Many times, when we drill a client’s ground we come across different geological layers which are not well squeezed together and as a result, they cause earthquakes. The leaders who live in the Dark Era usually start epic battles against the other departments of the organization.
What do you currently see as the greatest challenges for internal communication in your world?
The biggest challenge is how to explain that although a company may have an Internal Communication Director, all employees and leaders are internal communicators.
I think that the internal communication department should not have the only purpose of producing messages or making media, as if it were an internal news agency, but it should also take care of coordinating, training, advising and guiding all the members in the organization to be the main internal communicators.
"I think that the internal communication department should not have
the only purpose of producing messages or making media, as if it were an internal news agency, but it should also take care of coordinating, training, advising and guiding all the members in the organization
to be the main internal communicators".
I call this Co-created Internal Communication and in fact, some years ago, I wrote the first book in Spanish on the subject ( English version here). In the book I already said that we were entering an era of shared and co-created internal communication which enriched the dynamics of conversations in a company.
To sum up: The historical role of an internal communicator has always been to give messages, and today it is complemented by another role: to help other people become message givers. That is to say, we’re changing from being a mere fuel to also being a lubricant.
It’s a big challenge because the image you generally have from a communicator is someone who gives messages, who talks, who writes, who manages media. On the other hand, I always suggest to my clients that we should design internal communication departments where the main role is to facilitate the dialogues that already exist in the company, to reinforce the most relevant messages, to define policies, and empower people to manage their own internal communication.
"The historical role of an internal communicator has always been
to give messages, and today it is complemented by another role:
to help other people become message givers.
That is to say, we’re changing
from being a mere fuel to also being a lubricant".
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for internal communication to make a difference in the next year or two?
I believe that we have the chance to forever hack what it means to do internal communication and thus broaden our scope so as to become increasingly relevant.
In my view, we can do that if we show the companies a very obvious thing: that most of the messages given to their employees through classic communication media (house-organs, bulletin boards, Internal Social Networks, etc) may be delivered through other media or channels which have greater impact.
Update - Alejandro Formanchuk is one of the co-authors of our recent eBook "Disrupting the Function of IC - A Global Perspective." Click here to learn more about the eBook and download the free eBook here.
I always tell my clients: everything there exists in your company is potentially an internal message because everything has a meaning: the salary you pay to an employee, the size of an office, the resources given at work, the boss’s behavior, the dismissals, the promotions, the way you get a client, a fulfilled or unfulfilled promise, etc.
Most companies don’t perceive the things I mentioned as ways of doing internal communication, and as they don’t perceive them, they believe they don’t exist, and as they believe they don’t exist, they don’t value or manage them.
I always tell my clients: everything there exists in your company is potentially
an internal message because everything has a meaning:
the salary you pay to an employee, the size of an office, the resources
given at work, the boss’s behavior, the dismissals, the promotions,
the way you get a client, a fulfilled or unfulfilled promise, etc.
Many still assume that internal communication is that which is done through classic media and they don’t realize that, for example, the way the employees are promoted or leave the company may be the most powerful messages a company may give because all their values are summarized in one single action.
Of course, internal communicators don’t decide who to fire or promote but they should be consulted to analyze the significant impact of these decisions. In fact, some time ago, something great happened to us. We started working with a client. We explained to him what we meant by internal communication. He understood and began to manage it. A few weeks later, the company CEO called us to ask us what we thought about the fact that his office was located on the top floor of the corporate building. He wanted to know if that message was consistent with what they communicated in the company media.
I was really glad he asked that question. The CEO understood that the location of his office was an internal communication message. Mission accomplished!
To sum up, we have the chance to relate to people instead of impacting on a target. We have the chance to create experiences and not only messages and media. We have the chance to transcend and expand to mold experiences that will never be forgotten, to introduce acting and the senses of feeling and touching and not only looking but also listening and consuming.
I call this Total Internal Communication, and in fact, my new book on this subject will be released in a few months.
What internal communication resources (websites, conferences, associations) do you make the most use of?
Who are the international internal comms experts and personalities you pay attention to the most?
I’m lucky enough to be friends with the best communicators I’ve ever met in my like: Joan Costa and Paulo Nassar.
I also admire Gary Grates, Liam FitzPatrick and Michael Goodman a lot and I’ve had the pleasure to work with them and speak at conferences with them in Brazil.
I like another friend’s approach: Mike Klein, from Holland.
And the person I learn the most every day is my best friend, Daniel Daza Prado, who is starting to lead a Digital Anthropology movement in the region. Apart from working together in the agency, we created an error learning methodology called SmartFail.
That is to say that I am lucky to have the people I admire and like around, and that is my biggest achievement in life.
Have you came across a piece of data - a study/report/research/case study/article - that proves your bosses/clients the value of IC investment generally, or to support a particular tactic or initiative?
Internal communication is corporate culture in motion.
ABOUT Alejandro Formanchuk
Alejandro Formanchuk is the Director of Formanchuk & Asociados, an agency that has developed +1000 projects for +250 organizations in 16 countries. He is the President of the Asociación Argentina De Comunicación Interna (Argentinian Internal Communication Association), and the Director of the Federación Iberoamericana De Comunicación Interna (Ibero-American Internal Communication Federation). Alejandro is a Staff member of the Imagine Creativity Center, a lab based in Silicon Valley where he trains entrepreneurs from all over the world in communication issues. Alejandro holds a Bachelor in Social Communication with an Honours Diploma by the University of Buenos Aires. firstname.lastname@example.org