The Case for an Internal Communications Team

The Case for an Internal Communications Team

By Danielle Leber and Megan Toal

Any company can benefit from clear, consistent communication with its staff. But when you have 40 client and service teams serving 30+ associations under the same roof, the need becomes even more pronounced. That’s why AMC endeavored to create an internal communications team that could unify the company’s messaging and bring staff together.

Meeting a Company Need

For years, AMC’s corporate messaging came from one of three individuals, all of whom were in close contact with each other: Scott, Jeff, and Mark Engle. But with the formation of AMC’s 10-person Leadership Team, it became clear we would need a new method for ensuring that—despite coming from a diverse group with many different communication skills and voices—the company’s message was delivered in the form of one cohesive and human voice of leadership that reflected AMC’s values and culture. The solution? Building an internal communications team.

One of the principles of the internal communications team is that a lack of a message is a message in and of itself, and one that cannot be controlled. We know that a lot of companies send the wrong message by not sending a message at all. But by sending regular, consistent messages on behalf of the Leadership Team—and advocating for as much transparency as possible in the messaging—we were able to foster ease with and faith in the company’s new management among employees. The internal communications team also built the foundation for more two-way conversation within the company by serving as staff liaisons for communication with leadership and by fostering opportunities for staff to communicate directly with their leadership, such as through Town Hall meetings.

In addition, by creating an internal communications team, we help take pressure off of the Leadership Team so they can zero in on their main responsibilities—the strategic goals of the company. And by serving as outside analysts who are not part of the Leadership Team, but rather part of the demographic they are addressing, we can, in collaboration with leadership, more objectively determine what should or should not be shared.

As an internal communications team, we can track staff engagement with and the effectiveness of the messaging to see how we, as ready-made advocates for communication and transparency, can improve our messaging and continue building trust within the company. Studies show that high employee engagement correlates with greater productivity and company success, so our efforts to build trust and boost engagement represent a win-win for everyone involved. Although the changing corporate structure at AMC demanded a new communication method, statistics like these prove that all companies should be working to ensure engagement among their staff.

The Process of Forming a Team

In putting together a team, we focused on the qualities of the individuals who would populate it. They had to have excellent communication skills, some knowledge of communication channels, emotional intelligence, a sense of diplomacy, and the ability to collaborate, especially with people who are different workers, thinkers, and communicators from them. In addition to the core team, we also created an advisory committee of staff pulled from every part of AMC, including marketing managers, HR professionals, events managers, and other stakeholders who can help us understand the unique perspectives and needs of each department at AMC and lend their skills to communications tasks that fall out of our purview, like planning all-staff events. In a sense, this enables every department at AMC to have a say in the communications process.

Although there are 10 members of our Leadership Team with very diverse ideas and opinions, the internal communications team primarily collaborates with just three members of the team: Clay Baznik, Chief Experience Officer, and a dynamic communicator who manages dynamic communicators; Karen Kramer, vice president of Human Resources, who has been working in human relations at AMC for 22 years; and Steve Smith, vice president of client relations, CEO of AAHPM, and incoming CEO of AMC, leader of the Diversity and Inclusion team, former internal communications manager, and lifelong association enthusiast. By working with these three individuals, we are able to have a smaller, more direct funnel of communication with AMC experts who are very tuned into the WHY and the HOW of internal messaging.

Our Accomplishments Thus Far

The internal communications team orchestrated Spring Connections, will plan Fall Connections, and has been maintaining consistency in writing internal and external announcements for AMC. Some members of the team have created AMC’s own Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group Committee.

The strategy for the internal communications team was developed in collaboration with multiple stakeholders to ensure that it fit the bill for everybody:

  • We developed a strategic plan that defined AMC’s unique voice, tone, and culture and that borrowed from research into communications best practices, past communications successes, and our own corporate strategic goals.
  • We identified the many types of media we have at our disposal.
  • We provided guidance for future communicators regarding how to address our staff to ensure messaging could be consistently applied, even if the team changed.
  • We delineated processes for each type of message—and for fostering two-way communication—to make a more streamlined and consistent process for both the Leadership and the internal communications teams to follow.

The team’s efforts are ongoing, and always will be. At AMC, like at all companies, staff will change, and the corporate structure and strategic goals also are subject to change. Our team must be flexible to meet the ever-changing needs of the company as it develops and progresses. With a dedicated internal communications team, we can ensure our messaging grows with the company while staying true to the mission, vision, and values that always have defined AMC.

Danielle Leber is a managing editor and Megan Toal is a content marketing associate on the Creative Media Services team at AMC.

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