As Big Ben chimed the start of 2015 I stood by a bus stop in the centre of the city, London’s skyline obscuring all but a glimpse of the fireworks.
Dressed in an oversized high-vis vest, with an assault alarm in my pocket, I got hugs and high-fives from dozens of merry revellers celebrating the New Year.
I’d volunteered to support Transport for London’s bus events team on its busiest night of the year. I was one of hundreds of employees from our head office locations who took the opportunity to support frontline operations. After a short briefing we worked in teams of three at various bus stops around the capital. Our mission: to help the public get to where they wanted to go.
Yes it was cold, yes it was a very long night, but as I made my way home at 4.30am I made my New Year resolution to find more time to get out and about in the organisation that I work.
Why? For me, the night was a reminder of some important principles for internal communications:
- The importance of knowing your audience. Make the time to learn about the work that people in your organisation do – especially if it’s in different locations and hours of the day to what you do. It’ll help you be a more effective and authentic communicator.
- Even if you’ve worked in a similar organisation before, every audience is different. In an effort to get to know my audiences, I’ve spent time with car rental franchise owners in the outback of Australia, with paramedics on a Friday night in London and with teams of staff at retirement homes. While all are in operational and service-based industries (and do have some commonalities), they are also very different. Only time spent with your audiences in the role you are now in will help you understand the nuances.
- The influence held by your customer-facing employees. Every interaction between a customer and an employee can build or damage the reputation of your organisation. Know this, and work out how to use this influence.
- ‘Purpose’ is your strongest tool for engagement. Find out why people do what they do – what’s their ‘purpose’? I’m lucky to work in an organisation that has such a strong purpose. I felt satisfied after my shift that I’d helped hundreds of people get home quickly and safely. Purpose is the most powerful motivator you have – so use it.