STOP PRESS: Revised and expanded Second Edition now out!

‘TALKING WITH YOUR PEOPLE’ is about internal communications within organisations, be they corporates, public sector, not-for-profits – anywhere really where people are employed and communications takes place. I call it a roadmap because it tries to map out what should happen in employee communications and how best to make that happen. When you’ve read the book you should have a strong sense of what information is important to people in organisations, and how best to deliver it.

I focus a lot in the book on understanding what’s happening in your internal comms and what’s needed – best identified through an audit; and there’s a sample audit in the book. I also dwell a lot on the channels you can use and how they work best in my experience.

I look at the people within the organisation who are important to comms – not just the comms team (if there is one), as well as those outside the actual organisation who also need to be considered in terms of internal comms, like suppliers and business partners.

I spend a chapter on Change Communications which is a major part of most organisations’ lives these days, as well as looking at the relationship – often neglected – between internal and external communications.

But the overall thrust of the book is about doing things better. Plenty of organisations have good internal comms practices and practitioners, but many don’t – in my experience.

Talking with People - 2nd Edition

Review – Nathan Smith, National Business Review

There’s not much point in ageing if you fail to turn around and make sure those coming up behind you don’t make the same mistakes. That’s what this book is about. Mr Murray has done every young communications professional a massive service by opening a portal into the wealth of experience of what not to do and what to do.

Communications sounds intuitive, but there’s really nothing simple about it. Mr Murray lays out in language everyone can understand just why the industry has struggled to be effective and what new entrants to the sector can do to rebuild the confidence in internal communications (and just good business practice, really). If this book isn’t on a communications professional’s desk, dog-eared and underlined out the wahzoo, I’m not sure I’d hire that comms team.

A small but insightful book that packs a punch.

Why did I write the book?

I’M JUST A FAN of never accepting that “this is as good as it gets”; to me there’s always scope for improvement in comms – especially internal comms which I characterise as the Cinderella of the comms practices within organisations. I have that kiwi thing of thinking “if there’s a better way, let’s give it a go”, and through the years, as I experienced the challenges of getting decent internal comms going in my various roles, I started compiling a bit of a game plan for how it seemed to work best.

So I wanted to capture those learnings and share them with whoever might find them valuable.I don’t want to suggest that our industry doesn’t provide good instruction on internal comms; there are some excellent practitioners who are teaching this stuff like Elizabeth Hughes in Tauranga who ran a great workshop I attended on the subject some years back and regularly imparts her knowledge on the subject.

But I thought I’d pitch in my 20 cents worth and I was also driven by my perception that to me organisations still didn’t get internal comms right, or worse, neglected it big-time. I’d strike feedback in engagement surveys that always complained about communications – so there was clearly something going wrong. I’m a reasonably moderate guy but I get very passionate about internal comms – and the book is a bit like the text for a crusade to improve how we do internal comms.

Review – Professor Jim Arrowsmith, Massey University

We know that how people communicate is crucial to organizational success. If people are in the dark they don’t know what’s going on and they can’t add value to to ongoing improvement process.

This is an easy read that points out some good reasons and methods for creating a more inclusive and motivated organization. Strongly recommended.

Who’s the book for?

LOOK, I’D BE BOLD ENOUGH TO SAY “Who isn’t it for?” Walk into any organisation and point out to me anyone who doesn’t have a stake in better employee communications. Maybe some don’t care, but no one in an organisation can work in a vacuum – a comms silence. They need to know how to do their job and keep up with changes at the very least. Health and safety alone provides a ton of communications – and I’ve been in organisations where it is the dominant topic.

To be specific though, I’d say the book obviously supports comms managers (and definitely internal comms managers if the organisation has such a specialised role – not always the case). But, as I say in the book, every manager is a comms manager really. They should all know the best ways to communicate, because their teams and reports expect it. They email, run meetings, speak on videos…they’re high-level communicators, so having some knowledge of best practice I would think is valuable.

I think CEOs in particular should understand how this game works; the troops look to them to be the best communicator in the organisation. I’ve worked with some excellent CEOs – Paul Ravlich at Siemens and Peter Reidy at KiwiRail – who knew this and made themselves available, familiar with best practice and highly supportive of the internal comms programme. But senior management team members should also embrace this – and have a place for internal communications in their operational plans. That particularly applies, I believe, to Human Resources management; employee comms is the lifeblood of their business within an organisation, particularly given the lead role they have in managing change – when the need for comms rises significantly.

But what I’d really like is for the young, the new, those who don’t have to manage anyone but themselves – the ground troops – to absorb my story and be emboldened to seek and even demand improved internal comms. My dedication in the book is to “every employee who ever felt left in the dark…” telling them “there is a better way”, and the book I hope maps that out for them.

Review – Frank Olsson, Europe NZ Business Council

We know that how people communicate is crucial to organisational success. If people are in the dark they don’t know what’s going on and they can’t add value to to ongoing improvement process.

This is an easy read that points out some good reasons and methods for creating a more inclusive and motivated organization. Strongly recommended.

What will you get from the book?

What I hope the book provides is guidance on

  • what internal comms is for

  • how to find out what people want to know about

  • how to find out what’s working and what isn’t – where the gaps are

  • who does the work

  • how to use the different channels effectively

  • how to get cut-through

  • how to involve your business partners

  • how internal comms works with external comms

  • how to measure your internal comms programme

I think people will find a few unusual things in the book. I talk a lot about cut-through and float a few novel approaches to standing out from the barrage of comms people encounter, like pantomime and raps, A-to-Z guides, posters, big foyer pictures. I talk about “coastwatchers” in an organisation and how valuable they can be – that’s a concept few will have heard about, I suspect.

And I think people will get a sense of my utter belief in, and commitment to, planning. One of my favourite quotes is Lewis Carroll’s which is about that essential part of any plan – the objectives; Carroll said “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” When I talk to people about internal comms I liken this to the tendency to seize on doing something as if that’s the objective, e.g. to make a video or a brochure. Too often a lot of effort goes into doing something when the reason why – what you’re trying to achieve – has been barely dwelt on.

And that’s part of the biggest challenge: taking internal comms seriously and committing to doing it better. If the organisation doesn’t make that commitment, it will be hard to make any meaningful improvements.

Review – Melanie McKay, Employers and Manufacturers Association of NZ

The title Talking With Your People says it all – this book is an excellent guide about how employee engagement is vital in the corporate world. It is a great, practical guide on what works, with plenty of examples, and is written in an engaging and entertaining style.

Every person in communications should read it, and share with their people and culture counterparts.

What’s the cover saying?

I wanted an image that cut to the core of what internal communications is about – which is also suggested by the title of the book. The figures are employees but not gender-, race- or seniority-specific; they can be anyone. It’s a gathering of some sort where face-to-face comms (the gold standard) is taking place. The one marked out in darker blue could be a manager or an employee. And people are seated or standing in close proximity to each other – no actual or metaphorical distancing. When it’s like this you have a good chance that successful and effective two-way communications will take place. My son Cam developed the concept based on my very rough description of what I was after.

Where did I learn this stuff?

I’ve been working in organisations for nearly 40 years and in every instance there’s been a requirement for internal communications. For close to 30 of those years I was part of the team charged with developing and implementing communications and more than 20 years of that I was managing it in one form or another. So you pick up a bit. And you try stuff – and learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m a bit of a magpie. A collector of ideas and methods, tips and tricks.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend time working for a range of different organisations – public and private, large and small, in-house roles and consulting – across a range of sectors. They have different goals, businesses, products, services, operations – but they’re all made up of people who want to know what’s going on. My job was to keep trying to improve the way we informed them of that and everything else they wanted and needed to know about at work. To be – and this is ultimately important – happy.

STOP PRESS – Second Edition

In the time since I first published Talking With Your People in 2018, the disruptions of COVID-19 certainly brought change in the internal comms area but even before the pandemic hit I was keen to update the text to reflect the growing place of social media in particular. This Second Edition features an interview with Jenna Waite-Leonard, a comms practitioner from Toi Ohomai polytechnic in the Bay of Plenty, who outlines her deployment of social media tools to support internals comms. I’ve also added a change communications case study; change is a given in most organisations now – COVID or not. But I was pretty happy that the rest of the book still stood up and spoke true.

Launch Party