As a champion for internal communications and a bit of a process geek, I get excited about finding ways to avoid what Kaizen advocates call waste or Muda. Standard operating procedures are one way to tackle waste. If done well and include a contingency of flexibility when things don’t go as planned, they can save you time, effort and a lot of grey hairs. This is especially relevant in internal communications, where even small mistakes can cause confusion, complaints or serious reputation damage to the function or the company as a whole.
So here’s my take on how you can standardize your communications processes and at the same make your life as an internal communications manager so much easier:
1. First identify which processes are suitable for standardization. I’ve given some examples below, but I’m sure you have other processes in your organization which would also be suitable.
- Communicating financial updates on a quarterly or annual basis – e.g. alignment with PR and IR teams when drafting key messages, and the countdown steps on the day of announcement
- Announcing management changes, departures and appointments – e.g. who is eligible to be announced globally or regionally, recommendations for other new hires and people changes
- The editorial process for articles in internal media – e.g. which contributions are appropriate, what is the drafting and approval process, what is the typical timeline
- Distribution lists for standard internal announcements – i.e. how it is created, managed and kept up to date
2. Then write down the main process steps for the standard process. Ideally, this should not be more than two pages long. Too little detail doesn’t provide enough structure, but too much restricts your flexibility and is tedious to maintain. Some key points you could include would be
- Defining the appropriate target audience – i.e. those who need to know and those who need to act
- Defining relevant stakeholders – i.e. those who need to be involved, provide input, review or approve content
- Identify key influencers – i.e. groups or individuals which can facilitate the process or those who have concerns which must be managed
- Outlining which supporting materials are needed to accompany the announcement or help the influencers cascade the messaging
- Outlining a countdown timeline for the process or the process cycle
3. Once you have created your templates for standard operating procedures in internal communications, all you need to do when the time comes is print them off and work through the process. You may find that you need to tweak things on the day so use this important information to adapt your approach and update your plan.
Another great thing about using standard operating procedures for standard processes is that it reduces the anxiety of recurring events and frees you up to focus on long-term communications strategy. It is also a great way to help new team members familiarize themselves with your team’s activities and gives you peace of mind when someone is suddenly calls in sick. Everyone else knows what to do and can pick up the slack when required.
What standard operating procedures do you have in your organization? I’d be really interested in hearing about how you manage standard communications processes in your organization. Please share your comments below.