From the Comms Cupboard

How comms people gather and share insight

How comms people gather and share insight
What do we do with the insight we gather, and what role do comms professionals play in ensuring good insight is shared? John and Shaun discuss the ins and outs.

What can we learn about ourselves from company surveys, and what can we do better by learning from other companies? It's good to learn from others!

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Episode transcript

Shaun: I’d like to talk about comms teams and insight. It’s a little vague this one.

John: It’s very vague. What do you mean by insight?

Shaun: Well, insight could mean a number of things. It could mean clairvoyance! 😄 Wouldn’t that be fun! Instead of hiring a masseur every Friday to rub your shoulders, you hire a medium to tell you if you’re going to be made redundant.

John: Or you go down to the seaside and pay your pound.

Shaun: Madame Microsoft 🔮

John: That little paperclip pops up.

Shaun: I’m thinking of things like interdepartmental insight; the sharing of knowledge and information and what comms teams are responsible for. How do they get involved in that? Where are they in the link of the chain?

John: I think they are a really big deal. Comms people are in a really good position to provide insight on how people are feeling in an organisation. Also, when it comes to the communications themselves, we send hundreds of emails every year, we are communicating constantly – it’s an obsession with all organisations internally and externally. We are communicating more and more in different ways and with different channels, and hopefully some of those channels give something back. In the bygone days of sending emails, it’s pretty tough to track or provide any insight of whether people have read it or not. We are now in a position with lots of different tools that can give us that data, and it’s our job to look at it and provide some insight. It’s not data – it’s about trends and understanding what things mean.

Shaun: So we’re talking about company surveys and things like that?

John: Yeah, it could be. And it could be software that tracks how many people opened an email, how long they’re spending on it, the sort of topics people are interested in; and town hall meetings and the sort of questions you get, and the tone of the questions. And what sort of insight you can gather about what people are feeling at that time.

Shaun: So what we’re talking about is the comms team having that insight and not keeping it to themselves. They’re actually doing something with it that changes the company.

John: And also showing ... surely this is the next stage: you showing a bigger value than as a post person just sending something out. This is you showing what value you bring back to the organisation so that they can change, adapt and do better.

Shaun: So insight always has to be a two-way process.

John: I think so.

Shaun: You mentioned there that it’s not necessarily about what’s happening within the company and getting feedback on that from surveys, it’s also about keeping up with industry trends and what people are doing outside of the business. And then analysing that and putting it out there in a way that people can understand.

John: And even going as far as adapting what you’re doing based on what you’re seeing outside as well.

Shaun: What do you mean by that?

John: If you take another organisation that’s doing something fantastic and they share what they’re doing, and you think it’s good and would work for you, then put it in place – give it a go and track how it’s doing. So if it’s a new tool or a new way of talking about something, or it’s something people are not talking about at all in your organisation, bring that in. But use that insight you’ve gathered to make some changes.

Shaun: Do you think we do that enough?

John: No. I don’t think anyone does that enough. You sit in your bubble of something works well for you, then that’s what we’re going to do.

Shaun: Yeah. That comfort zone of, or maybe the hubris of we do it best so why should we be looking at other competitors.

John: Absolutely. There is definitely that thing where habits die hard. If an organisation’s got a newsletter that they’ve had forever and people say they love it, but then you get a tool that measures it and you realise no one is actually reading it! 🥺

Shaun: We talked recently about remote fatigue – do you remember that episode?

John: Mmm.

Shaun: Do you think there is such a thing as insight fatigue?

John: Oh probably! There’s too much data, there’s too much information, but isn’t that someone doing their job well when they can interpret it and provide solutions with it? Sometimes you need insight to help you stop doing something as much as to start doing something.

Shaun: Are we good at sharing information? We may have a lot of information, but are we good at applying it across different teams and departments?

John: I doubt it. I think most organisations are probably collecting all sorts of data and information and are presenting it in their own way, and maybe not having those conversations among themselves. They are presenting it to show off what they can do, but it would be good to have internal comms working with HR and working with finance to bring some of that information together. I suspect that when you invest in really big structural tools – such as a new HR system or new finance system – you may get HR and finance working together to talk about workforce planning or to understand more about costs and where things could be more efficient.

Shaun: But they’re possibly only doing that when the project comes up rather than on a consistent basis.

John: Yeah, perhaps. What about marketing? What more can marketing do? Who can they work with? They collect a lot of data.

Shaun: Traditionally, I’ve always thought that marketing and sales teams should be hand-in-hand. They should always be ... you know, if you like the office environment, they should always be the department right next to one another, in my opinion. Marketing should hear the calls being made by the sales team, and the sales team should understand what the marketing team is doing as well. They are so closely linked to lead generation and getting business in.

John: What about HR and how they link into that, because you’re collecting all of this insight and information – shouldn’t that impact the type of people you want to hire, or the skills that you need to do better in that? So the insight is telling you that you need to move to a 100% digital model, and 80% of your people know nothing about digital. That’s where your insight gets used for recruitment.

Shaun: Yes.

John: That’s where it gets used for business strategy, because the business needs a new operating model and a different way of working. All of this feeds together.

Shaun: How does that work then? Say you’ve got that information and you’ve analysed it and thought, this is a good thing for our business, whose job is it to then implement that?

John: The leadership team of that organisation. Most would have some way of sucking that information up, I guess. There may be some hierarchical way of pushing that information to the top.

Shaun: ... who then tries to link all of those departments associated with it together, and then the comms team puts out that constant message of what’s being done each week or day.

John: In theory, yes.

Shaun: Oh theories. Theories! I have a good theory to end this episode.

John: Go on.

Shaun: I wonder if I can fit another croissant in before lunchtime?


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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