Finding the internal communications rainmakers

Every organisation has internal communications “rainmakers”. These are the magical unicorn employees who just seem to know everything and everyone. Here are 5 ways you can work out who they are and how you can persuade them to spread their magic dust over your messages.

Header image of multi-coloured flying umbrellas

It was this post from 2019 by Mike Klein that led me to this article about the 3% rule, which in turn, inspired me to write this post.

Mike says that 3% of employees drive 90% of the conversations in organisations. The article he references recommends identifying the smallest group of staff, which they reckon is around 3%, that you can use to reach 85% of the other employees. Mike advocates Organisational Network Analysis as a way to help you work out who these people are.

After reading about ONA, it started me thinking about Comms Champions; a well-known concept and something many of us are already familiar with.

Whether I’m working as a change communicator or for a central internal comms function, I find it’s usually helpful to identify comms champions early on; those super-connected employees that just seem to know everyone and be aware of everything that’s going on.

I like to call these people the internal communications rainmakers.

As internal comms people, we know that if we can work out who these magical unicorn employees are and somehow place our information within range of them, they will hone in on it and become transmitter beacons through the whole organisation.

unicorn figure
Internal comms rainmakers – like magical unicorns.

Informal yardsticks

These people are great measuring sticks too; you can ask them what they think and they will usually be (very) free with their opinions. It’s subjective of course, so you might not want to take all of it too literally, but this kind of feedback is a great place to start if you’re wanting to see how something has landed (see also my other post here about measurement).

IC rainmakers are great for informal measurement too.

5 ways to find your comms rainmakers

Here are FIVE ways you can start to work out who these super-connected people might be:

  1. Ask leaders in the relevant business area – they often know who these people are already or directly ask for volunteers.
  2. Ask other internal comms staff who the right people are.
  3. Put out a survey about something and at the end of the survey, ask people if they want to volunteer to be called upon in future for similar surveys or to participate in focus groups. I’ve done this and it works!
  4. Analyse the “who opened” and “who clicked” data in your Campaign Monitor account or Mailchimp or Poppulo (or whatever you use to send bulk emails). Often they will show you who the staff are who opened your emails most quickly. I find this a great starting point from which to work out who the staff are who are most receptive and responsive to your email messaging. Obviously email is not everything and it should never be the only channel in your mix, but this is a good place to start.
  5. If your budget stretches to it, then why not invest in a professional organisational network analysis. This involves interviewing people and analysing communication flow data to work out who the most influential people are in your organisation. Cost is dependent on the size of organisation but you should plan to be spending a minimum of £10,000 if you are going to do this.

I’m very much in favour of using any data that you have available to help you identify the right people. As Mike mentioned to me in a chat we had this week, when leaders have been asked to identify the key communications people, there is often little overlap with the people that a professional organisational network analysis (ONA) identifies. So ONA is certainly an investment worth considering if you want to really get into this.

Making a rainbow – 7 ways to leverage your rainmakers

  1. Informal measurement (as mentioned above).
  2. To validate that you have the right audience.
  3. To help you overcome objections locally, working out what or who is standing in the way of change.
  4. To spot issues on the ground and flag them for the change team.
  5. To help you field questions, or even seed questions for you to answer in online discussion groups/forums that you set up to support change.
  6. To organise local events and support roadshows.
  7. They can be trained as pilot users or given extra training on new systems so they can act as super-users and help others.
Countryside scene with rainbow

How to keep your rainmakers engaged

Well, that’s up to you to be creative! Here are some ideas from Dillan Shikotra that I like. There are also some good ideas here from Engage For Success.

Here are my ideas:

  • Invite them to a regular meeting.
  • Invite them to a few social events from time to time.
  • Hold briefing sessions about specific changes just for them.
  • Arrange privileged access to a senior leader for this group – a lunchtime Q&A session, perhaps.
  • Set up a group/community on your company intranet or internal social platform (Yammer/Jive/Workplace etc) where you give them privileged access to info before you publish it more widely, or that you can use to host content or printable posters etc when you want them to be involved in the local distribution.
  • Give them a T shirt (appropriate in some companies perhaps). Or a mug or something else that will sit on their desk and remind them of their important role/status.
  • Create a page on your intranet listing out and profiling the champions (be sure to include photos and mini-bios or interesting facts because staff love reading about other people and looking at places they get a mention).

I’d welcome your ideas too! Please post in the comments below, or drop me a line at andrew@andrewhesselden.com and I’ll include them in a later update.

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