• James Blair

Why Internal Comms is a bit like a Vaccine roll-out



In England, at the weekend, we had our most successful day of Covid vaccinations yet, meaning that over half of the adult population have now had (at least) their first jab! As well as being in awe of the amazing work being done here, it got me thinking about the similarities between rolling out a vaccine and rolling out your key messages.


Bear with me, my puzzled reader. There is a little method in my madness…


First of all, and with the disclaimer that I am neither a medical professional nor vaccine expert, it seems to me that the first step of manufacturing a vaccine, once it has been formulated and tested, involves collecting and collating the vital ingredients from wherever they’re created and from wherever they’re needed. With some relevant skill and careful consideration, these are then combined into a tidy, self-contained and easily dispensed package.


Needless to say, that package needs to be effective for all who receive it. Otherwise, there’s no point in the project. A low “hit rate” just wouldn’t do.


Similarly, it needs to be delivered to everyone, regardless of their location, situation, circumstance, work patterns etc. The logistics of this can be a challenge, but if we can get a shot of vaccine into 28 million arms in three-and-a-bit-months, we should be able to get our critical messages delivered to all of our people with a bit of careful planning.


As with a vaccine, our comms needs to be delivered when they’re fresh. Timeliness is everything. Stale information or out-of-date comms are about as useful and welcome as... well... a vaccine that’s past its use-by date. In fact, they can actually cause damage in the same way that an expired medicine might.

Ideally, you should also have a way of tracking those comms – do you know who has received their shot of info’ and when. The success of the comms should also be measured whenever possible. How are those comms being received? Are they having the desired effect? Any unexpected or unpleasant side-effects? If so, that formula might need a re-tweak before the next dose is due.


Finally, just as a single dose of a vaccine only delivers limited benefit, to really give immunity against ignorance, apathy and disengagement, your people are going to need more than one shot of those crucial comms. Keep those booster jabs coming to keep knowledge topped up and your people operating at full engagement and with maximum productivity.


And so, just as we went into this huge nationwide undertaking with a clear strategy and detailed plan, this is where a robust and up-to-date comms strategy is essential for your business. If everyone who needs that shot of info is going to receive it, you’re going to want to look at this closely. Are your objectives defined? Have you profiled your audience? Do you need a comms plan or channel matrix? Unfortunately, just “spraying and praying” your comms will be about as effective as squirting those syringes of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s hard work into the air and hoping for the best!


A couple of final parallels: withholding the end product from anyone struggling to provide any of the ingredients is dangerous. Politics should not play a part in the dissemination of information. Also, allowing large groups to refuse your comms will risk not only the success of the roll-out but also the health of your business. As with the worldwide Covid vaccination programme, until we are all protected, we are all at risk. Disinformation and disengagement will spread like a virus where comms is not administered. The resulting gaps in knowledge and hotspots of disengagement could cause massive damage to your business strategy and culture. If people are reluctant to receive your comms, you need to find out why and address those barriers at a local level.


If you’re worried about the health of your internal comms, a health check is a pretty painless but efficient and effective way to get a robust diagnosis. And can be a life saver! You may just need a squirt of Savlon and a Band-Aid. Or you might need some hastily-arranged surgery. But isn’t it better to know?


Just as the UK is amongst the leaders of the pack with our vaccination roll-out, so you should aim to be a frontrunner with your meaningful, carefully packaged and effectively distributed comms. Empower your people and protect the health and future of your business.

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