Promoting IT: Why and How
Chances are good, outside the Information Technology (IT) department, employees only know about Help Desk activities. They may understand how quickly your department is responding to and resolving tickets, but they’re unaware of your technology strategy, architecture plans, business process improvements and more happening.
They should know.
Why promote IT?
It’s not just about perception, although that’s a small part of it. Having employees understand IT’s big picture and plans help employees understand tools available to improve productivity, legacy systems being replaced that impact them or customers, quality measurements that are improving products and services, security protocols to follow, cost saving opportunities and more.
In fact, what you know – that your colleagues may not – is how critical IT is to a functioning business. Your department is fundamental to cutting costs and supporting revenue. That’s the key issue. If they don’t know what’s happening, they won’t do some myriad things: use the right tools, self-select into projects impact them, use improvements already discovered, protect the organization or save money.
You can change that.
Promote IT by partnering with Internal Communications
One of your first stops is Internal Communications. Partner with them to promote what’s happening in IT.
1. Determine communication priorities.
Internal Communications can’t promote IT daily, especially the same projects. By determining what’s important, you can help steer and guide them to what matters.
For example, what’s more important – your team-building outing to see the movie Rogue One or taking new security training to prevent phishing attacks?
2. Know your audience.
If you think about the internal communications world, they’re constantly communicating about HR policies and information that’s changing, business initiatives, customer wins, projects executives champion and more. The competition is already tough for their time and communication channels.
Present information like an Internal Communications person would think. Go beyond the journalistic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. Consider what keeps them up at night. Understand employees’ perspectives, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM).
Here are key questions to have answered before you go to Internal Communications:
- How is this communication request achieving organization goals? Why is it good for the organization?
- How does this align with IT’s communicated goals?
- Is there a way to measure communication effectiveness? For example, if it’s cybersecurity training – attendance and compliance might be two easy metrics to measure. You probably also will have stats on how many security incidents happened.
- How is it impacting employees? Why should employees care?
- What should they do? What action do we want them to take?
- Who can they go to for more information?
- Where it’s happening (such as locations, departments and systems) and when it’s happening?
- What’s the next step?
- How will this improve productivity for the organization and engagement?
You’re in this together, part of the same organization. When Internal Communications professionals misspell tech terms, resist the urge to roll your eyes or complain to neighbors. Understand they’re trying. Realize this is a good test audience to get the message right.
Review information on time and guide communicators where and when it’s needed. Understand they have limited space and few channels. Also, understand they’re as busy as you.
4. Don’t worry about communications channels, unless you control them.
Everyone at your organization has expertise. Internal Communications creates messaging and thinks about communications vehicles – intranet, email, online news, print magazines, all-organization meetings, voice mail and others. That’s where they excel. Don’t take it personally if your specific request doesn’t make it to the all-employee meetings.
All that aside, you do own various communications channels Internal Communications may not consider: all-employee voice mails, desktop screen savers, etc. Use these communication vehicles wisely though, for things that need some creative thinking.
5. Get creative; embrace marketing.
Internal Communications may not want monthly announcements about new security procedures in the organization’s online newsletter. Employees will get bored of that information anyway. Instead, think about communication as a marketing campaign.
- Can you make the topic fun?
- Do you have the budget for posters around the office? Swag with the project’s intranet address?
- Can you relate it to pop culture: a movie coming out, a well-known meme, etc.?
- Do you have resources to help, like make a video?
- Is there a story attached to it? Customers and employees who overcame challenges make the best stories.
If you get one shot – for example, one email communication – make it count. Even boring topics like improving development processes to increase customer satisfaction can be exciting. Besides, humor and emotion make the information easier to remember
6. Continue partnering.
Don’t make it one and done. Build relationships with Internal Communications team members. Go to coffee occasionally. Drop by a desk or two. Maybe for the latest information on IT, they’ll start coming to you to get the scoop. While you’re giving them the low down or gently correct misuse of terms, you can pitch another idea for promotion.
Promote IT by partnering with others
Although Internal Communications is a stop, it shouldn’t be your first or last.
What about IT employees? Does your CTO or technology leaders understand what’s happening? They’ll share information with the CEO and other leaders. Make sure they understand what’s happening. Do project managers know what’s happening in the department? They communicate with various employees regularly and typically love to talk. Arm them with good information to share with their circles. The Help Desk is on the phone and chatting with people all day. Get them the information and maybe in the silence that sometimes erupts, they’ll start talking about it. There may even be leaders and individual contributors who everyone knows. Get them onboard and provide information to them.
Do leaders across the organization understand what’s happening in IT and why it matters? Officers, managers and go-to people should be involved. They’ll communicate information you provide.
What about your user communities? You have super users and people who are champions. Let them communicate on your behalf by communicating with them.
Do you have tips?
What things have you done at your workplace that have made a difference in promoting IT? What was the result?