How to Be a Fly on the Wall: The Dos and Don’ts of Sharing Executive Discussions

This post was republished from the Federal Communicators Network blog. No endorsement expressed or implied.


A sure way to drive employees crazy is to never share what executives discuss or decide until a new mandate lands on the organization’s collective head. While senior leaders should expect some privacy in decision-making and debate, they should also expect to openly hold themselves accountable and to make sure their employees know where the organization is headed.

One way to offer that clear accountability and communication is by keeping people apprised of what happens in important executive meetings, even as those meetings are happening. Here are a few things you should and should not do when you open the doors, so to speak, on high-level meetings.

Which Meetings Should Be Live Blogged or Otherwise Covered for an Internal Audience?

Do
plan to cover meetings in which topics important to many, if not all, employees will be discussed and related decisions will be made. Don’t cover a meeting simply because executives will be there — they have to attend a lot of meetings, and many don’t interest them, much less everyone else.

Setting Expectations about Coverage.

Do
all you can to ensure that everyone, including the executives themselves, is aware that the discussion will be documented for employees. Don’t assume that one memo or a mention at the weekly senior staff meeting will make its way through the agency.

Do set explicit expectations about what and how will be covered in the meeting, including the sort of information that will be shared and the media used to share it. Execs need to trust you, and employees will define trust of execs through your coverage. Don’t make employees think they are going to get sensitive info before it’s ready to be shared, and don’t surprise your leaders with a video camera when they think you’re keeping written comments.

Analytics: Measure Your Live-Blogging (or Other Coverage) for Internal Communications.

Do
find a way to measure participation, whether through web metrics software looking at your executive blog, email delivery services, or the other analysis tools. You can also poll employees about whether they followed the coverage and why. Don’t assume that everyone will stay glued to your coverage all day (remember, they’re at work) or that attention is the same as assent.

Make It Live for Better Internal Communication.

Do
strongly advocate for live or near-live coverage to ensure that the discussion is captured and the word is out. Don’t agree to a process through which meeting notes are approved and scrubbed clean by every cook in the executive kitchen — if this happens, you might as well not cover the meeting.

The Writing: Good Material, Clear Messages.

Do
keep the voice and tense of the coverage clear and consistent, and time/date stamp your posts. Don’t make employees have to think about who’s writing the updates or when they were supposed to be written.

Do pay close attention to what’s being discussed so you can pull out the best material to share. Don’t check your email, write that proposal you’ve been meaning to get to, or browse for jobs while you’re supposed to be covering the event.

Do make quotes, paraphrases, and attributions crystal clear. Don’t leave out important contextual information that leaves employees wondering what on Earth these overpaid clowns are thinking.

Managing Comments and Participation While Live-Blogging for Internal Communications.

Do
come up with one or two good questions to ask individual leaders during breaks or at the end of the event. Don’t ask them a question that would put them in an awkward position with their colleagues (“So, why do you think Brenda’s programs keep getting cut?”).

Do gather and consider how to handle incoming employee comments during the event, whether through email, blog comment section, or otherwise, and bring up good ones during breaks or when asked. Don’t raise your hand to read out feedback every time it comes in during the meeting.

***

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We’ve published lots more on this topic. Join the FCN, and check out Internal Communications To Improve Employee Relations and Your Employee Survey Data Should Drive Internal Communication Strategy… But Be Careful.

Leave a Comment

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

David B. Grinberg

Excellent points, Dave!

I would just reiterate that, like most things, internal communications requires leadership from the top-down. Even if execs don’t want live blogging, or insist on closed-door meetings, they can still effectively communicate via:

  • “All-hands” emails with meeting summaries and key points,
  • Post-meeting internal blogs,
  • Agency-wide podcasts or video messages;
  • Intranet updates, etc.

Bottom line, the most effective internal comms should flow from the top-down, not the bottom-up ( with the prodding and assistance of the internal comms folks, of course).

Boosting employee morale and motivation is at least somewhat contingent on an open dialogue and constructive communications with staff agency-wide. The more, the better because it’s always best to have your employees on the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in.

Reply
Dave Hebert

Couldn’t agree more, David — on your first point, I think the trick is ensuring that the info gets out in a useful and timely manner. I’ve seen too many sets of exec. meeting notes sit on a desk for scrubbing and finally go out 2 months later, or not at all. You certainly don’t have to go live from the meeting, but you need to have a plan to go soon.

As to second point, employees should hear big things about their organization from their leaders at least simultaneously with the rest of the world, and preferably before that.

Reply