Thomas J. Lee has emerged as one of the leading thinkers in the field of strategic communications,
having more than 25 years of experience in professional communications management. As the
founder and principal of Arceil Leadership Communication Ltd he has developed highly innovative
approaches to the planning and evaluation of internal communication campaigns with broad strategic
Twelve dimensions of strategic internal communication:
1. Strategic orientation and imperative
Lee argues that communication is the lifeblood of an organisation and, in addition, an organisation’s strategy will not be successful unless it is properly communicated. Therefore, the communication team should be oriented towards the delivery of the organisation’s strategic priorities.
2. Integrity and integration
It is vital that communication is credible and consistent with the organisation’s conduct. If the rhetoric is not matched by actions then the integrity of all communication will be lost. The long-term success in matching rhetoric to action will increase trust throughout an organisation.
3. Dignity and respect
Two of the fundamental building blocks of communication are dignity and respect. Lee believes that through the continued use of dignity and respect in all communications, trust and accountability will be developed on an organisational basis.
4. Flow of strategic information
It is vital for information to flow through an organisation in a timely manner. Not just down through the organisation but also upwards. Indeed a test of an organisation’s ability to survive is the way it handles negative upward communication.
5. Clarity and power of messages
Clarity is paramount in all communication. When it is absent, confusion and doubt are present. A clear message will be complete, in perspective, acknowledge any gaps in the information delivered and answer questions raised by the message.
6. External perspectives
An organisation cannot communicate in a vacuum. All messages need to have an external perspective. Lee therefore argues that ‘only a communication system anchored in a company’s external environment can provide information in a compelling way and place it in a tenable context’.
7. Roles and responsibilities
Every employee of an organisation has a responsibility to communicate and should be rewarded for doing so. These responsibilities need to be clearly defined both vertically and laterally within the organisation.
8. Listening and visible presence
All communication needs feedback and therefore good listening both on a personal and organisational basis is required. It is through listening that people learn and it is a way of building relationships.
9. Training and support
As all employees have a responsibility for communication the appropriate training and support needs to be provided to ensure that they can meet their obligations. Support will also include ensuring that all employees are aware of the communication channels and upward feedback mechanisms.
10. Structure and process
Internal communication is all about helping the organisation to realise its goals and, as such, the structure and processes should be clearly aligned to this goal. The end result is not the communication itself but the impact it has on the recipients. In order to be successful, the communication department needs to build alliances with line managers across the organisation.
11. Measurement systems
Measurement is vital to the success of any strategic communication system. Without measurement it is impossible to tell how successful previous communication has been and to plan future messages. Measurement should focus on outcomes from the communication rather than the inputs and outputs of the communication process.
12. Continuous improvement
Continuous improvement is required in order to ensure that the communication process and systems continue to evolve and meet an organisation’s needs. Organisations are constantly evolving and the communication system must be able to respond to these needs and expectations. It is also useful to benchmark best practice communication activity elsewhere on a regular basis.