Webinar presenter Katie Nelson answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Secrets Don’t Make Friends: How to Ensure You Are Communicating Well with Your Internal Audiences. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Can you describe the process that used for that internal communication side of it that you did? How did you get support and how did you execute the study?
Katie Nelson: Absolutely. So, the support came from the chief, it was one of his four core initiatives that he had when he came in, that he was looking to address to improve. We did it through a Survey Monkey, we have a department account, and we worked with a statistician, actually, who was already on staff. They had been hired to do other analyses of things like traffic stops and other aspects of policing to ensure that the questions were impartial, they were not leading, and they specifically provided data points for us to analyze appropriately. Now, we did have questions that also allowed for people to elaborate and provide personal experience, or anecdotal, or what we call qualitative data. But what we were looking for was what we call a mixed methods approach. We had some quantitative, or basically data-driven responses, number responses. And then we had qualitative responses, so that we could look at the voices of our employees and incorporate that. Especially if we were beginning to see themes around concerns, questions, things like that. And it helped us track or target specifically easy, kind of low-hanging fruit to address right off the bat, and then longer-term projects to work with leadership on, to build back morale, improve employee engagement through internal communications. And that’s really how the study. We gave people two weeks to respond. Like I said, it was sent out department-wide, it was not just sent to the police union, and based off of that, we had kind of a SWOT of responses from secretaries, all the way up to captains, and we were able to have a pretty holistic look at where our pain points and pitfalls were and what was done well with our communication efforts. And that was the result that you see in a document that’s been provided to you.
Audience Question: I did also want to share some of the comments that we received from the audience. Ken said, brag-worthy internal communications, is rooted in sincere respect for the time, effort, and humanity of the employees associated with the project of an organization. I thought that was a great comment but would love your feedback.
Katie Nelson: Yes, I agree. Completely. Thank you so much, for that. I wish that everybody felt the same way.
Audience Question: Then, a couple of interesting responses from folks in, for that whether or not their leadership listens well, first one is: I feel that leadership listens well, when it corresponds with their ideas, wants, and needs. Then, another person said, main supervisor listens, depending on their mood. Higher up listens, when they see a constant change in staff, any comments on either of those?
Katie Nelson: Interesting. I think that that’s an issue to address for sure, because even if it’s not something that personally benefits a supervisor. I mean, as humans, we tend to listen more to what we know will directly impact us as opposed to what doesn’t or something that seems more cerebral or farfetched. But a supervisor is one person, whereas employees are many. And I would say that the more that leadership can understand that listening to the masses of internal employees, their concerns, their questions, the themes that are coming around, especially around certain topics, the more that there will be a championing of what they are interested in when that gets brought up. And, ultimately, what the vision or goals of the department are long term.
Audience Question: Has your department tried video based updates that might be shared with staff during the roll call, and, if so, any lessons learned?
Katie Nelson: We have not, but I know one agency that has done that is Fort Collins Police Services. I would highly suggest reaching out to them, I believe their chief does a video update every Friday.
Audience Question: Do you know what platform Stagecoach used for communications?
Katie Nelson: Yes, it’s called, I believe it’s called Blink.
Audience Question: Again, a couple of comments regarding failures and internal communications. One person said, I think another reason it fails is that we often only communicate negative information. And then a second comment, I think people are overwhelmed with tasks and information overload. Again, any thoughts on those?
Katie Nelson: Yes, I cannot stress this enough. When we talk about external communications, and at least in law enforcement, we’re usually talking about the bad stuff, somebody’s worst day. Nothing feels better than a feel-good story, so please consider, for leadership and for your comms team, balancing the good with the bad. Yes, there can be some negative things that require you to hear updates or receive information. But you never know who’s going to connect on a good story too or, somebody’s going to have a similar experience, and the more empowered they feel to share the good. The more there will be tiny little doses of endorphins to make your employees feel better.
Audience Question: How do you handle internal communications that need to remain internal and stress to your folks that the information should not be leaked?
Katie Nelson: We do just that. So, oftentimes what we will do is we will copy our city attorney, you can do the same for County Council, and it becomes privileged content. They cannot be released because it’s considered attorney client privilege. And we will do it that way if it is required to go out through an e-mail. Otherwise, we don’t e-mail anything. We go when we talk about it in person. There are no copies of anything that are printed out that could be accessed through perhaps a public records request and we do a lot of that communication person to person. That is a that is an easy way to avoid any concerns around something getting leaked or any concerns around something moving beyond the organization. Now again, there’s no foolproof method there. There’s not necessarily something that is going to prevent that from happening 100% of the time. But that’s a good, good start to it.
Audience Question: When the organizational newsletter heavily focuses on only one of the departments, because they have activities with the public, other departments are not represented and so, they stopped reading the newsletter. The newsletter seems to have backfired and ostracized a large part of the employees. Any ideas and suggestions for maybe getting additional content from those non-represented departments, even if they’re not public facing?
Katie Nelson: Yes, we have had that issue as well in our department. So, what I have done is I have basically gone to those various units and said, I would like something from your unit. What is it? Give me anything. And I have sat there until they could come up with something. We’ve kind of shot some ideas back and forth until something settles. And then I take that back with me, and I personally incorporate that into the newsletter to make sure that it is highlighted. And then over time, as that has happened, and not only took a couple of times, then they start submitting on their own.
Host: If organizations start doing that, I assume they can build support and interest in the newsletter?
Katie Nelson: Absolutely, and I will also, especially if one unit is just sending me like 50 things, and that’s an exaggeration but a lot of content that they have done are limited to like 2 or 3 and say, “Thank you so much, to allow for space for everyone else, we’ve just taken the three biggest or coolest things and everything else is. Thank you so much.”
Host: So, it sounds like you’re going to have to, especially at the beginning, take an extra role in soliciting article ideas and content at the beginning?
Katie Nelson: Yes.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Secrets Don’t Make Friends: How to Ensure You Are Communicating Well with Your Internal Audiences.