Internal announcements are public

by David Harris on December 13, 2010

Many institutions release information to their staff through an intranet, email blast, newsletter, all-hands meetings, or face-to-face announcements to subgroups of staff. Often those people expect that that information is “internal” and not to be shared outside the organization. This is misguided thinking and you need to expect that all information shared in those ways will be available to anybody outside the organization who cares to look for it.

In this modern age of easy electronic information duplication and exchange, there are simply no real barriers to just about everything being known to everybody. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should affect some people’s behaviors. Think about the Wikileaks case in the news at the moment and the ease with which supposedly private information was shared around the world.

As a rule of thumb, consider that anything you tell a group of people will spread outside your organization. Sometimes the best way to spread something outside is tell certain groups, especially faculty if you’re in an academic institution!

A case study: I was in an acting communications director role where I was asked to leave a meeting as the information was only for faculty. I was the only person at this supposedly open meeting who had bothered to show up and wasn’t faculty, as it happened. However, within two hours I knew precisely what had been discussed as one of the most senior faculty in the room thought I had left because I had some other commitment–the meeting was on a Saturday–and felt I should know what was discussed. I then heard this information from various other people during the next days so it had spread pretty broadly in little time, even though I had not passed it on.

So consider internal information as essentially public. Then, while you’re at it, take advantage of the fact that the whole world might be listening. Get more mileage for the kinds of information you spread by framing it in a way that is of use to those not on staff.

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  • Martha

    at my job we have the opposite problem.. .the “CEO got a new puppy” problem, in which every little transaction is considered to be newsworthy, and a lot of my job is spent explaining to leadership that wearing out journalists’ patience is worse in the long run than missing today’s possibility for coverage. Got any advice?

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