Dealing with stakeholders: how to keep your internal comms schedule on track

Approved

Achieving this magic word, on time, every time

My previous post discussed the challenges of keeping internal comms top of mind for your senior stakeholders.

The five examples I outlined are points I raise with my stakeholders when a deadline is about to be missed, to help bring the schedule back onto track.

But, there’s much more you can do, especially from the very beginning of a project, to ensure this never happens in the first place.

Here’s my top ways to keep your internal comms projects and messaging schedule on track:

  • Share your schedule with those involved: Create a schedule and issue this to your stakeholders in advance of the project. Clearly highlight the dates the stakeholders need to provide and sign-off information. Show the relationship between the stakeholder input and the next stage of the project progressing. For example, if your poster cannot go to agency for design work until the copy has been signed-off, then show this. Explain the impact if work is delayed.
  • Look at your sign-off procedure. The bane of every person’s life working in comms – the sign-off process. When it feels like every senior manager and his or her friends wants to sign-off the document or article before it goes out. Look at your process and identify stakeholders that you can safely omit. Target those who are routinely slow with conversations around how to keep to deadline – and then plan in more time to give yourself a stretch.
  • Timeliness versus quality. I’m a big believer that employees need timely, relevant, consistent communication. The content might be word-perfect but unless it reaches people on time, it will lose impact. This means delivering to agreed deadlines. And sometimes this means saying ‘no’ to change requests. It’s having the difficult conversations with your stakeholders that the communication is ready to go out and no further changes can be made once a deadline has passed. I’d rather get a communication out to employees that they need and face an angry stakeholder, than not deliver timely communication. But that leads on to…..
  • Pick your battles. Know the difference when a short delay will not significantly impact employees and when timeliness is crucial. If you’re going to say no to a stakeholder change, make sure it’s nothing too important in the wider picture of what you’re aiming to achieve. Understand the business you are in too – I’ve worked in organisations where a news story had to be live on the intranet by 9.00am every morning. In others, the nature of the business meant keeping to a deadline to the minute wasn’t necessary.

And finally….

  • Understand what’s going on in the rest of the business. Success in working in internal comms is about the relationships you have with the rest of the business. I try to catch-up face-to-face with all the key business areas at least twice a week. This can just be a simple door knock on the office, a chat over the water cooler, or a more formal meeting. By understanding what’s going on in the business at any given time I can better plan my schedule and pre-empt any upcoming hurdles in meeting deadlines.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your schedule on track? What works well in your organisation?

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2 Responses to Dealing with stakeholders: how to keep your internal comms schedule on track

  1. Karen Ellington says:

    This tactic must consider your point in picking one’s battles, but I have found success in the following approach. In your process of pushing a communication out to reviewers, be very clear in your request:
    * Establish a firm (and reasonable) cut-off date and time for edits/input, after which you will assume there are no changes.
    *Explain the necessity of this specific deadline (i.e., it’s not arbitrary; you value the feedback which will take some time to implement; it will be irrelevant if distributed late).
    *When you are very close to the deadline (half day), send a reminder note to those who have yet to respond, and–if critical–consider copying any senior sponsor if that individual isn’t you.
    *If it is crucial that you cover some specific bases, call, IM or (if possible) stop by the key approver’s office for a face-to-face reminder.

    Often when a key approver is holding you up, they are unaware and a friendly reminder will do the trick. Always be courteous and acknowledge that you appreciate their attention with competing projects and other responsibilities.

    • anna lowman says:

      Hi Karen, great points here thanks. I especially like the last one, during a long project and when there’s multiple review dates, it’s easy for things to get overlooked unintentionally.
      Thanks!

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