In the final blog in my series about trust, after reflecting on the interesting presentations at the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC) London Region Annual Networking event – Trust or Dare! a few weeks ago, I look at what internal communications can itself do to become more trusted by those in its own organisation.
There is often lots of focus on how internal communications can help its leaders or organisations to build trust, but how do we build trust in ourselves as a function? After all, no IC team wants to perceived as a corporate spin machine or clueless to what is happening in the majority of the organisation. Much of what IC can do to build trust for others applies equally to ourselves, but I believe there are five specific points that are key for an IC team to be trusted by the organisations they serve.
1. Act with integrity
We should look to employ a journalistic level of integrity to our work, with honest and ethical communication at the forefront. This means checking, and challenging where necessary, the truth and accuracy of what is being communicated. We should strive to establish a level of independence so as not to be seen as simply the CEO’s mouthpiece and also be aware of and try to remove other forms of bias, ensuring greater inclusivity as a result. The human impact of our communications needs to be at the forefront and when we inevitably make a mistake from time to time, ensure we own up to them and do what is needed to make things right.
2. Tell people what you do
Because everything we do feels so visible, we may forget that other people in our organisation don’t always understand the extent our remit, how we operate or even what our real purpose and responsibilities are. Look for opportunities to be as transparent with your colleagues on these ‘inner workings’ as you can. This could be by making your strategy accessible on the company intranet, requesting outside involvement in projects, or even by holding ‘lunch and learn’ sessions to explain what you do and to share some tips for good IC. It’s also useful to demonstrate our competence from time to time, either through new qualifications or training undertaken, or through external recognition and awards.
3. Get real
To be trusted we need to show understanding of others in our organisation and that can’t happen if we’re shut in the head office day in and day out. Getting out and about not only helps people to put a human face to the IC function, but also allows you to learn more about other realities of life inside your organisation, beside your own. Having conversations with a variety of colleagues will help you to understand different perspectives and will ensure you are more attuned to the issues and sentiments felt by employees so that your communications are more likely to be ‘in tune’ than ‘tone deaf’!
4. Connect with colleagues
Encouraging employees to make themselves heard is a great way to establish trust. Often IC acts a facilitator for this, by providing platforms for people to share views between themselves or to feedback to management. However, we should also seek to have our own dialogues and encourage employees to input into the formal communications channels. We can do this by getting people to share their stories or even contributing content to central channels, by gathering their feedback, and by seeking their views on what issues to cover. This involvement develops greater intimacy between the IC function and the wider organisation, which is a precursor to greater levels of trust.
5. Make yourself clear
Communications that are confusing, vague, too dry and corporate or filled with jargon won’t inspire trust. Our colleagues will feel that we talk a different language to them or worse, that we speak the language of the board because we are only there to deliver a top down message. Using straightforward language, a human tone and clear messages will mean that, even if people don’t like or agree with the message, they will at least be able to trust the meaning and the source, and will be less likely to feel they are being deliberately kept in the dark.
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