Rethinking Internal Communications with Doreen Maciak of Takeda

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Zara Raezer
November 15, 2023
Rethinking Internal Communications with Doreen Maciak of Takeda

Whether or not they realize it, all organizations have an internal and external communications strategy. However, internal communications activities often only receive perfunctory attention despite their importance. But as more and more internal memos and communications are leaked, it begs the question: are internal communications just for internal audiences?

Head of USBU and U.S and Internal Communications for Takeda, Doreen Maciak, recently visited our office to set the record straight: prioritize wisely, as internal communications regularly become the external message.

"If you have a choice, you want to educate your internal audiences first," Maciak advised us earlier this month during our Inside the Moments that Matter lecture series, where guests share key communications lessons with our team. Managing a global team at a company of 50,000, with more than 30 years of experience in Communications, Marketing and PR, Maciak is a de facto expert in the world of internal communications. Here are just a few of the jewels we gleaned from our afternoon together.

Turn your colleagues into a network of evangelists.

In the world of communications, it's inside-out, meaning that tending to your internal messaging pays dividends. Recognize the influence of employees who understand and subscribe to the company's mission. "Make it digestible" so that your talent can easily become the boots on the ground of public perception.

In crisis, prioritize timeliness and transparency. The more people you can include, the better.

"You should write with the intention that it can be shared," emphasizing that information only ripples out from the center. Widening your initial circle and including as many people as possible gives you greater control over the message.

And timing matters. When communicating during a crisis, "you want to do it sooner rather than later. In most cases, if we were to do an employee 'listening session' after a major event or public incident four months after it occurred, it's too late, right?" It’s important to consider the extremes, weigh the pros and cons, then make a decision and own it.

Consider the messenger. You want to hear from your boss, if not their boss.

While some high-level information, like quarterly financials, should be dispersed by the CEO or CFO, Maciak notes that employees care most about updates that impact them and their work lives. To do this effectively, these communications should be distributed by the managers closest to the employee as it'll resonate more because the message is written through their lens.

A recent AxiosHQ report, The 2023 State of Essential Workplace Communications, cites that Culture and Values, Personnel Updates, and People Operations ranked in the top three most critical updates according to company leaders to create alignment among a team or department. In contrast, employees ranked Operational Changes, Organizational Goals and agreed on People Operations. It's not surprising to see a bit of misalignment on what's most important, but where they do agree is finding a communication style and vehicle to ensure the message is received and understood. 47% of leaders surveyed for this report said that the toughest step is writing in a concise way that will get read.

Maciak imagines that in the future, AI could assist in personalizing messages where previously it was time-consuming and expensive. Now, it comes down to understanding that AI won't replace your job, but the person who knows how to use AI will. Communications are no different, and we'll need to evolve to a place where we can also be fact-checkers and prompt engineers.

Repeat yourself often. Do it at least three times.

"Just because you've sent out an email doesn't mean [your team] read it." Maciak recommends putting information in at least three places--like an intranet post, posting on virtual or in-office signage, and, most importantly, through one-on-one meetings with management. This direct engagement has the most impact.

However, some channels should be avoided or at least approached with caution and a clear understanding of the audience and objective. "Newsletters are overdone. I challenge everybody when your client says, 'I think we should have a newsletter' to say, 'Yes, AND?' and suggest a more compelling medium, like video.” Ultimately, we all get too many emails a day. The newsletter isn’t going to break through the noise.

Try something new.

Contemplating what advice to leave us with, Maciak pauses before saying, "Don't be afraid to try something new. Take the risk. "In her opinion, that's when the best learning happens. "Let's make a mistake!” I used to say, “Let's not make the same mistake twice." With a laugh, Greenough President Nikki Festa O'Brien echoed this sentiment, "The best learning happens during the post-mortem."

With Maciak's wisdom in mind, we urge you to take a look at your internal communications with fresh eyes. "Besides," Maciak muses, "most things can't be broken permanently."

Looking for guidance on how to rethink your internal communications strategy? Drop us a line at nfesta@greenoughagency.com!

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