Magazine article Communication World

In-House Communication Consultancy Strengthens Internal Brand

Magazine article Communication World

In-House Communication Consultancy Strengthens Internal Brand

Article excerpt

In February 2001, Westpac Banking Corp.'s in-house communication consultancy, Group Internal Communication, opened its doors with just one consultant and one client. From that small beginning, the consultancy grew in less than two years to 35 consultants serving internal clients from every part of the bank.

Throughout 2000, multiple signs indicated a need to change the way internal communication was managed among the Australian bank's 27,000 employees. Two audits by external communication consultancies found fragmented messages, duplicated efforts and poor use of resources, all of which were diluting the bank's internal brand.

Employee communication had become highly fragmented because of varying levels of resource allocation. The 23 staff undertaking internal communication operated as silos. In addition, a large number of external agencies produced material for internal purposes. There was a proliferation of inconsistent messages being communicated through myriad channels, resulting in many different corporate identities. This structure also made it difficult to ascertain the cost of internal communication and impossible to demonstrate any return on investment.

To remedy this fragmented internal communication, an in-house consultancy was formed to serve as an aggregate platform designed to help its clients--the bank's leaders--achieve improved business performance through effective, cohesive communication.

OBJECTIVES

Four goals--and methods to measure each--were developed for the in-house consultancy:

* Drive tighter alignment to the bank's business model while addressing clients' communication needs to build a stronger internal brand. This is measured with an annual bank-wide staff cultural survey as well as an internal communication effectiveness survey.

* Manage communication as a business process by instituting procedures, methods and systems that enable communication consultants to partner with their clients. For example, Service Level Agreements between consultants and clients specify the charges, performance measures and timelines for each communication program. Client satisfaction surveys and communication effectiveness surveys issued quarterly evaluate the level of achieving the stated business objective.

* Recover all costs associated with the provision of any services and pass on the full cost of all products. The consultancy has no budget, so clients pay for any communication services or products provided to them.

* Build a centre of communication excellence. Performance indicators for knowledge sharing are included in each consultant's half-yearly performance review.

IMPLEMENTATION

Unable to secure a mandate for existing communicators to join the consultancy, the project started with just one consultant and one client. While the existing 23 internal communicators and numerous external agencies continued to operate, the consultancy positioned itself as an alternative force--one that applied rigour around performance measurement and cost management.

Still, there were many challenges to overcome:

* The "fee-for-service" principle was a sticking point for many months, particularly because the existing communicators continued to be available free of charge. The consultancy countered that by offering free measurement of the effectiveness of its communication programs in meeting clients' business objectives. This was a win-win solution because it also helped the consultancy evaluate and refine its model.

* To establish credibility, team members constantly had to demonstrate the business value of the in-house consultancy model. …

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