Category Archives: Internal Communication

Photo shoot mis-planning

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We have been facing a lot of problem as we don’t get good quality, high resolution photographs for communication collaterals like calendar, diary, brochure, poster etc. So we thought of engaging a professional photographer for the job. He quoted exorbitant amount so we were not able to engage him. So I suggested that we can organise a photo contest among our employees, and reward them with cash award and photo courtesy mention. The idea was accepted and boss was after me to send contest details to all. I wanted to get precise so I spoke to few photographers I knew and formulated contest guidelines. Boss checked it and suggested some changes. I made the changes and moved a note for launching the contest. I also cross-checked with Finance department whether we can launch such a contest and they said yes we can.  So we were almost there. As told by boss, I told another teamer that she should send the details to regular photo contributors to our inhouse magazine. So we were all set with 2-page approval note, detailed guidelines, and I was almost going to send the mail for circulation.

Another teamer I shared the info with, commented-Sir, but can employees take cameras into factories, won’t that be difficult. Boom. It was right, I asked boss, she called up a factory PR head and he bluntly refused.

So the whole preparation, boss’s time was all gone. And the idea was dropped at the last moment. A dampener. But better than the contest being launched and we facing the camera entry issue, or worse receiving no entry at all.

Saved just in time.

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English Vinglish

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An acquaintance recently shared an incident about the flexibility of english lang.
A boss had marked a training related paper to his junior. The paper was a request for nomination of one person for attending the training. Boss wrote “Please attend” and marked it to that junior. After two days, when junior submitted that paper with a note for tour approval, boss had a change of mind. He refused to allow, but he had marked on the paper, and he did not want to overwrite. So his creative solution! he added ” to this”, so making the noting read as “Please attend to this”. Hmmmm.
This reminded me of oft-quoted similar incident, maybe false. There was this top boss who received a proposal for approval. Apparently, he was not given his cut, so he remarked “Not approved”. Affected party approached him, requested, gave his cut and asked to amend the remarks. He just added an E. So “Not approved” became “Note approved”. Imaginative na!
Then there is this incident of my angreji-gyan. I have this foot-in-mouth disease since long, you see. Years back, I was sitting in front of my boss with a lady colleague. We were just chatting. I made some funny comment on the lady colleague. Boss smiled naughtily. I explained, “I was just pulling her legs.” Bosses are bosses. He corrected my angrezi then and there in front of her and said, “Sanjay the phrase is pulling-her-leg. Pulling her legs has a totally different meaning.” That office was on ground floor, or I woould have jumped out of the window. Thank god for the lady, she pretended not to understand. I have many such goof-ups to my credit.

Power of Communication

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I worked in a company almost a decade back, which was almost on the verge of closing down, or at least its employees thought so. Most perks were cut down, and there were rumours of other conglomerates taking over and what not.

At such a time came a CEO who with his sheer power of communication turned the things around. It may sound like exaggeration but as a PR executive there, I was first-hand witness to a major transformation in employee morale and attitude.

Firstly the CEO, we got to know, had come with a mandate and backing of people who matter, to carry out that mandate of turnaround, without any interference. And that he did finally.

He was an engineer with Ph.D and ours being a manufacturing company, he could micromanage the process, production, operation and be pedantic. But he did none of that. What he did was communicate, communicate & communicate.

His being a local with knowledge of local language did help, but rest was his own charisma. Soon after his joining, he started a whirlwind tour of the huge production assembly. And maybe for effect he went in an open jeep, and not in any air-conditioned sedan. He met workers at the lowest level on the shopfloor, and took direct feedabck on what was wrong with the company. What were their problems. How could they help. What he could do to make their lives easier. 

After this went on for a couple of months, he started a series of communication exercises. And I think there was not even one weekday when he did not conduct these exercises.

First was a large group interaction on a weekly basis. 400 plus employees cutting across levels and units met every week with company’s top management. Presentations were made on industry and company scenario, achievements and targets of different units. Then CEO and other top managers addressed the gathering. This was followed by the best part-an open house session. Any of the employees could come and ask direct questions from the top management. To give you the extent of its impact, here are a few comments employees made in the open house session.

-I have been working with the company for 30 years. But this is the first time that I am seeing the CEO face-to-face.

-I complained about this problem to shift incharge, AGM, DGM, GM but no one listened. I hope you will.

-I want the name of our unit to be a part of presentation among the best performing units. Give us any target and we will do it.

Second was a mix-group exercise. In this exercise, 50-60 worker-level employees of a major unit were called alongwith some executives. This exercise again was chaired by CEO and top management. Other invitees were the Heads of major supplier and customer units of our company itself. Here again presentation was followed by address and open house. The difference was that employees pointed out their problems with other units. And Heads of those units had to reply on the spot in front of CEO. That was indeed a pleasure to watch, communication-at-play.

Third was a leadership exercise, in which executives in group of 25-30 were invited and CEO himself took 2-hour session on leadership. That was an eye-openeer in itself.

Fourth was brainstorming exercises between senior level managers in a relaxed environment, and mostly over dinner, which extended till very late in the night.

A unified goal document was also finalized and was publicised through posters, magazines, tv channels etc.

This communication coupled with special incentive schemes, taskforces, union management, cultural renaissance actually turned around the company within a span of few months.

It was an honour to be a part of that change exercise.

House Journals

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House journal or inhouse journal or e-journal in its electronic avatar is an important tool for internal communication. As the name suggests it is primarily aimed at employees and their family members. But many organizations send these journals to external stakeholders also like customers, suppliers, opinion leaders, ex-employees etc.

In its print version, house journal can be a tricky affair what with deadlines and timelines. Then CEO would like his photos to be there splattered all around, but will tell you to be conservative in using his photo. Take your pick. Then you need to take care of typos, name spellings, designations and so on.

Two instances from my experience which come to my mind while working on a house journal. In one case, the independence day celebrations news in our company was carried out on the first page of the journal. The layout had come very beautiful and we were very happy with the output. But our happiness was short-lived. Just a few days after the magazine came out, our department received a copy of a legal notice sent to CEO office. We came to know that our union had written a complaint to the President and all other dignitaries that CEO and PR department had disrespected the national flag. What had happened was that in printing the tricolour had become a bit faded and the union alleged that we had intentionally defaced the flag photograph. Now any layman could read between the lines. But be as it may, we had to bear with the paperwork for six months till the case was finally rejected. From that day onwards I am doubly careful whenever I use tricolour in the magazine. Either I don’t use the flag pic at all, or we use the three colours, and not the flag. Once bitten, twice shy.

Second instance was when I was associated with most urgent designing and printing of one issue of our house journal. There was a visit of some dignitary to our company and CEO decided that the house journal had to be preponed and brought out to coincide with his visit. I had to rush to Kolkata and sit with advertising agency designers for  days to design the 8-page journal. There was a news item of reshuffling at ED level in our company. There were 4 EDs and their portfolios had been changed. I thoroughly checked the final ready-for-print, gave the go-ahead for printing and came back from Kolkata. After 3 days the printed copies were brought by the rider from Kokata. We were pleased that we could manage the issue well in time. After a few hours our HOD called me and showed me a blunder in the printed copy and asked me to cross-check how it happened. Actually the names of EDs had been interchanged and the photos were not matching. I recalled that there was a change in sequence of photos at very last minute. But I also remembered that I had checked it on the screen and given okay on right names. In the meanwhile I got to know that my boss and other colleagues were enjoying my predicament and were commenting that now my oversmartness will be amply rewarded, read punished. Even my HOD was not willing to listen to me. I aniways find it shocking that most of the seniors tend to believe the outsiders more rather than their own team members. Well, HOD called the agency in my presence and asked them how it happened. I could read in HOD’s tone and manner that he wanted to put the whole blame on my shoulders. Lucky for me, the agency guy was a gentleman and a thorough professional. He told my boss that I had given okay on the right version but agency guy had saved an older version so the mistake. I still salute the honesty of that Bong guy from the agency. He was not very smart, dynamic, outgoing, but he was a man of integrity, a rarity in these days. And if I remember correctly the agency was M/s. Select Advertising. From that day onwards I have made it a practice for myself and my team that we always take a final print out of the version on which we have given the final go-ahead, so that this type of confusion does not arise in the future.