Do your stakeholders really understand what your Internal Communications function actually does? If you were to ask, how would they describe your role?
by Kim Sklinar Green
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) aren’t just for helpdesks.
Internal Communications is an ambiguous, and often misunderstood animal. Are we simply guardians of the intranet? Are we content creators, or content curators?
Depending on the organisation within which it operates, Internal Communications can sit in Marketing, HR, PR, within a Project Management Office, or well — anywhere. All of these are exactly what the practice is — a blend of these functions, and so much more. Which isn’t conducive to helping your stakeholders understand what you are, and how you can support them in achieve their strategic goals.
Enter, the SLA.
Say you’re at a party. That age-old cop-out question of ‘so what do you do?’ arises, and you have to explain Internal Communications again. How do you respond?
Setting expectations and boundaries not only lays out what you do, and how you do it, but it holds you to account too.
Internal communications is often too much of a reactive process. But, by permitting your stakeholders to really understand your responsibilities and your timeline, all parties can be more proactive and plan their communications pipeline. This in turns gives more foresight to the organisation where possible, instead of an announcement needing to be sent tomorrow, when its owner has known about its requirement for weeks. We’ve all been there – and no, there’s something else already planned.
Clarifying responsibilities in a written document explains what your Internal Communications team can do, where they can add value — and where they cannot, giving real ownership instead of becoming a place where badly-formatted email templates go to wither and die. Share your governance, detail your metrics and how your own team measures their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). What are your inputs and outputs, and how do you self-govern?
Being explicit about your boundaries is a profile-raising exercise, but doesn’t mean you are inflexible. Instead, it creates awareness of limitations and capacity, but also what is available to the business — channels your stakeholders may be unaware of. Consider making a process map that details timelines and when other teams (agencies, design teams) may be engaged. We often talk about transparency in our corporate messaging, so why not start where those messages are born?
Here’s a great example of an Internal Communications Service Level Agreement, from The University of Bradford’s IC team.
Of course, an SLA will never eliminate the umpteen hats a Communicator wears at any one time, but would you have it any other way?
Kimberley-Marie Sklinar Green is an internal communications specialist
image via the State Archives of New South Wales