Guest post: Building an internal comms community

Guest post: Building an internal comms community

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Rachel Miller is one of the UK’s foremost thinkers and doers on the impact of social media and networks on internal organisational communication. She was recently part of the launch team of the Internal Comms Crowd which is set to meet face-to-face for the first time shortly. In her own words, here’s what its about.

By Rachel Miller

In September I launched the Internal Comms (IC) Crowd (@theICcrowd) with fellow in-house comms practitioners Jenni Wheller and Dana Leeson.

Having met via Twitter a few years back and then at various comms events, we started to see each other regularly for dinner to discuss all IC related, swap ideas and spend time together.

The IC Crowd developed as a result of one of these meet ups. It’s an impartial community and place for people to connect, communicate, share and learn.

There are a variety of ways internal comms pros can share best practice, for example via LinkedIn groups, many of which are thriving and extremely active. However we spotted the need for a place to get short top-line answers to queries or point you in the right direction, with maximum opportunity to have it answered.

Our channel of choice is Twitter, where the internal comms community is thriving. There are lots of brilliant people around, specialising in and with experience in a variety of internal comms areas including change, social media, intranets, stakeholder relationships, branding, events, employee engagement, strategy, union relations and more.

The profession can be broad, and you’re required to have many strings to your bow, so it’s inevitable at some point you may need to ask for help.

How does it work? People can tweet the crowd to ask for advice if they are stuck on a project, need inspiration or contacts, are looking for other comms pros in their area or want to share something they’re proud to be working on.

When we get a question, it’s retweeted and people give their opinions directly and copy @theICcrowd in, so the knowledge is shared further.

Early on we discovered that agencies were replying to the messages and asked the crowd whether they wanted us to retweet them. The overwhelming response was no. So we have honoured the thoughts of the crowd and focus on sharing in-house to in-house knowledge. All of the most recent tweets can be seen via the conversation page on our blog.

One of my favourite tweets came from the Head of Comms at London Zoo who offered the chance to meet with a penguin in return for some internal comms advice with another in-house comms pro over coffee.

Crowd-sourced content Since launching, we have identified other ways for the community to add value to itself based on the content being generated. An example of this is the information sheets we have collated and hosted on our website.

We’ve pulled together two to date to capture some of the advice, as we saw the benefit of sharing it further; a true example of crowdsourcing at its best. One focused on how to run successful employee events and the other how to communicate an office move. These are recurring topics for IC pros and I expect we will produce more in the future based on what is important to the crowd and what they ask for help with.

It’s been fascinating reading the private direct messages to @theICcrowd. Examples have included “I need to ask advice about introducing a CEO to the business, but I can’t be seen to ask publicly – please help.”

This is where @theICcrowd really comes into its own as a place for people to ask advice from their peers, either in person or to ask us to post on their behalf. The key requirement is to get the information needed to do their jobs, and having the ability to ask for help in this way is clearly something that was missing before we launched.

Christmas meetup We have decided to bring the crowd together face-to-face for the first time in the form of a Christmas social event.

It is being held on Tuesday 11 December in the evening in a pub in London and full information and tickets are now available. This is a free event and its aim is to bring together people working in internal communications, both in-house and agency, to network, share ideas and reflect on 2012.

We have invited the Institute of Internal Communications’ (IoIC) 30 under 30 who were named recently, including our own Jenni Wheller. It will be a good chance for that group to meet in person too and network with other IC practitioners.

About Rachel Miller Rachel Miller is an Internal Communications and Social Media Strategist. She began her career as a journalist and has worked in internal communications in-house and agency side for global companies. Rachel was named in PR Week’s Top 29 under 29 professional communicators in the UK list and blogs at www.rachmiller.com. Connect with Rachel via Twitter @AllthingsIC.

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