How companies communicate internally is an increasingly crucial aspect of public relations. With more staff working outside the office, companies are using multiple ways to stay connected.
- Be available. As the owner or manager of the company, you’re busy and people understand that. But your team needs contact with you. They need to see your face, hear your voice and get a strong sense that you want to be included.
- Use asynchronous chat. Don’t just rely on chat clients. Add video chat to the mix. With video chats, you can see facial expressions, reactions and body language as a message is delivered. This will help especially when discussing a sensitive issue. It also helps build synergy, as workers get a better feel of how to work together by being able to see each other.
- Be inclusive. Don’t just chat with your team one-on-one. Include your whole sales group or your whole customer service team in a chat to help keep everyone on the same page. Do not, however, open a chat with someone who is responsible for troubleshooting a sensitive issue and bring a group of employees in on it prematurely. Gather the information from those having the problem, contact the person who would deal with it and then disseminate that information to that person only to see what the course of action might be to resolve it. Nothing says open season on the IT guy (or whoever) like opening a group chat and telling them of a problem a few people are having, demanding a solution right then and there. Be judicious about this.
- Schedule regular times for check-ins and meetings. Make sure everyone knows that it matters that they communicate on a regular basis. Schedule your sales meetings and customer service meetings, and then stick to the schedule. Also, if you schedule meetings, don’t cancel every week—and especially not 20 minutes before—and leave your team feeling that their time has no value to you. After all, they have a schedule too. Chances are they likely passed on another meeting because they knew you had that time scheduled to meet with them. Be respectful of your team just as you would want them to be with you.
- Make good use of technology and have a maintenance plan. Make sure the necessary technology is available to all, and be sure to make it work to your advantage. If you can’t explain something without visual help, utilize JoinMe.com or WebEx.com. Have an IT person on staff as well to make sure the technology is working out. It may seem like an unnecessary addition to the team, but the headache you will save if you commission someone to be “on call” to fix your system will far outweigh the money you’ll pay.
- Use a task manager. Basecamp is a tool used to upload files, assign and check off tasks for different projects or even to create a simple daily task list. Users can start discussions on any project or file, and the information is saved and visible to all involved. It’s a great little business piazza.
- Schedule in-person visits. Don’t forget the value of in-person visits, when possible. Of course, part of the reason the team is working remotely is because in-person visits may not be easily scheduled. Still, a short visit can go a long way in making your team feel included and for building that important synergy a strong company will have.
- Be proactive. Don’t assume that your team will always check in. Although most people are very good about checking in because they feel the need for communication—(especially over long distances), some may just check in when there is an issue. Letting your team know that you want to communicate is valuable, not just for troubleshooting but for building healthy working relationships.
- Strongly consider your email aptitude. Take great care in being professional, concise and to the point about an issue in a neutral tone. You might also consider saving the informal banter for other means of communication since it may not be well received on the other end. Things can get lost in translation. Be clear about your message and what results are desired by asking direct questions. Save anything that belongs on the fringes for another time and place.
- Pick up the phone. Most of the time, your voice will be better understood than words on a page. Many people struggle with putting words on paper. Pick up the phone and let your voice and tone be heard while putting a little more human touch on your communication.
Source: Shannon Hoffmann is publisher of Forefront Focus Media.
This article originally appeared in the December 22, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.