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Good Communications from the Inside Out - 2/1/2011 -

Solid internal communications plans are the foundation that help association staff do their jobs successfully.

By Katelyn Wyszynski

It may seem like common sense to most, but as it turns out, internal communications plans are just as important—if not more so—than external ones. For employees to do their jobs well and provide members the best experience possible, it’s important that they have a sturdy foundation. This foundation is built between a good relationship with their own employers and a firm knowledge of the company.

I could be the best writer in the world, but if I don’t know squat about the association I work for, or if there’s bad blood between me and my boss, there’s a good chance that will come out in my writing. It’s a domino effect. The members read a press release or a news article written by Negative Nancy and can sense the unease, thus leading to a bad relationship between the organization and the membership.

For most of us, things aren’t so dismal; but there’s always room for improvement. It’s important to search out opportunities to do more and to do more right. Our association took one of the wicked turns in the economy that left our staff reduced by about 11 percent (this was about two years ago now) and turned it around for the better. We immediately began looking at how to improve what we do, and with less manpower. For example, more meetings were scheduled that just put employees in a room together to start talking and start getting to know one another better. This alone provided a social outlet during the day (pizza and ice cream always help) and built bonds between workers; and as a bonus, each employee learned a little bit more about what another person does on a daily basis, or what an entire department accomplishes every day.

Committees were built to help improve employee morale—empowering staff with the means to give each other public pats on the back or monetary notes of appreciation. An activities committee started planning social events outside the office. Before we knew it, we were a new group empowered by better relationships, a happier environment, and a firmer knowledge of our company and what we stood for.

This went hand in hand with a re-writing of our corporate mission statement and core values. The senior leadership team made a strong point to include each individual’s input in crafting these new mantras. After a lot of individual and group discussions, a new mission statement and list of core values were adopted by the board of directors, and soon after, each employee publicly signed an adherence to them. They are now on mouse pads, coffee mugs, and posters in the hallway, always reminding us of what we went through, how we overcame it together, and what we stand for today.

The public signing of the core values and mission statement was symbolic, in that by putting pen to paper, every staff member was—with confidence and peace of mind—promising to demonstrate these values each and every day and with each and every interaction with our membership. Everyone now takes great pride in the work that they do and the membership can see that—with each phone call, email inquiry, event they attend, and more. They know that their association is comprised of individuals dedicated to each other, their organization, their membership, and their overall shared mission.

Katelyn Wyszynski is publications specialist for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Follow her on Twitter. Don’t miss the upcoming feature article in Signature magazine on comprehensive communications plans.


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