Chapter 07: Public Affairs: Internal Communications

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Chapter 07: Public Affairs: Internal Communications

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Description

In this chapter, Mr. Stuyck gives an overview of internal communications in the institution. He notes that, in 2001, MD Anderson was at a crisis point in communications and Public Affairs hired the management group, Deloitte &Touche, to analyze the issues. At this time he proposed to the Management Committee of Public Affairs to establish a section for internal communication. As an example of communication difficulties, he talks about the mistrust created by layoffs in the early to mid-nineties, describing the publications created to address the issue. He compares the paper communications of past decades with the online communications of today. He then talks about new technologies that communications specialists must master today, noting that "it's fun to be around" the new media specialists and to strategize how to use new technologies. He notes that Communications has "reinvented itself" six or seven times in the past decades.

Identifier

StuyckSC_01_20130611_C07

Publication Date

6-11-2013

Topics Covered

An Institutional Unit; Building/Transforming the Institution; Growth and/or Change; MD Anderson History; Collaborations; Institutional Processes; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; Understanding the Institution; MD Anderson Culture; Discovery and Success; Portraits; Discovery, Creativity and Innovation

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, I just didn’t want to make you late for your—okay. Well, do you want to talk a bit about Internal Communications now? What are the challenges for communications within the institution?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Ten years ago, we hired Deloitte & Touche to help us review the internal communications situation at MD Anderson. We had gotten really big really fast, and we were geographically dispersed. And the director of Human Resources at the time, Jim Dorn and I came up with the idea of doing an audit of Internal Communications, which we thought was fragmented and ineffective.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Can I interrupt you just for a sec so I get the name of the consultant?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Deloitte [&] Touche.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And I have no idea how to spell that. (laughs)

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It’s D-E-L-O-I-T-T-E—Deloitte. I think it’s T-O-U-C-H-E.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. All right. Well, I was kind of close. Thank you.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

And they did an internal audit of what our communications vehicles were and what the issues were that were concerning employees here. And I would say it’s fair to say that at the time that we hired them, Internal Communications was at a crisis. It was too much rumor, too much partial information, not enough solid information.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What year did you hire them?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It would be ten years ago.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I’m just going to guess—2001—something like that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

This led us to propose to the management committee—Jim Dorn and I—that we establish an internal communications function, and I hired Sarah Newson to take on that job. Sarah’s now the associate vice president for all of Communications, but she came as our director of Internal Communications. And she brought a fresh voice to the program, a lot of new ideas, and new information. I really think that we have gone from being in a crisis situation to doing a pretty good job of managing internal communications in a large organization like this with a lot of re-emphasis on electronic communications and giving up some of the traditional ways of doing it. So it was a huge challenge at one point for us.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What are some of—what were some of the problem areas or the—when would problems arise? Maybe give some examples so that I can kind of understand how there’d be—how the system would go haywire. You were talking about rumors, for example. Like rumors about what?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, as you know in—what was that year? When was it we had the layoffs of about 500 employees? In ’99?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

There was ’95, ’96.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

That’s it—’96. It was just before Mendelsohn arrived, so ’95.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Probably ’95.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

That’s a good example of it. We went for a long time after that—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

In ’94.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

—there was a lot of mistrust of administration here. And I think at the time we thought we were working hard to communicate about those changes, but it was a first in the history of MD Anderson. I understand we’re looking at something similar to that right now. And I think that was a good example of the lack of confidence in administration—one of the things that led us to do that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So how would you respond to a situation like that? How would the skills of Public Affairs kind of step in?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, my goodness. Your questions are very thought provoking. Well, we—try it again. One more time.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I’m just—and you can even do it as a what if instead of remembering a specific example. I mean I’m just curious on how you would strategize. So you have this impending disaster for many specific people about layoffs—500 people have to be laid off in the institution. What happens at the level of employees, staff, faculty as a result of those sorts of rumors? And then how would Public Affairs help manage it?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

One thing I’d say—we’re looking at such a vast period of time—that how we responded to a situation in 1996 [Interview subject note: The correct year was 1994] —with the tools that we had and the lack of online and that sort of thing—and how we would respond to it today would be entirely different.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You could do a ‘then and now’ for me.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Okay. In 1996 when we were laying off people, we created a paper newsletter called Prescription for Change, which went out about a dozen times during that crisis period. We created a number of memos from the administration to employees that were sent by paper to their inboxes. And we responded to media inquiries that came in.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now the content of that information that was sent to the employees—what were the kinds of topics that were covered?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, I can’t even remember. I mean—rationale for what we were doing, benefits of working at MD Anderson—all that sort of thing. Our financial position was still strong, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Now today, there would be no paper that would be flying back and forth at all. None. It would all be done online and every—nearly every employee here, with a few exceptions, has access to the Internet and can—the Intranet and can receive it. You can imagine in 1975 or ’85 or ’95 how many gaps there would be because we were dealing with paper. Most people—most employees, like all of our nurses, don’t even have an inbox—a paper inbox that things went to. So there were big gaps in communication and it was also—it took forever. If you did a little newsletter like we did, it had to be written and approved and designed and printed and sent out. Now responses are done electronically. They’re written, approved, and sent out almost immediately. And we can do it much more comprehensively—reach many more people—reach most people, and we can do things in two languages—or even in three languages if need be—when we couldn’t in the past. So it’s just a different ball game entirely, and it’s one of the things that makes communications so exciting. There are so many new things that are coming along all the time. So we can do—and we did do this. In addition to sending out things online, we did many video inserts where DePinho or others would be talking directly to employees—click on this link—and that just wasn’t possible. We had town hall meetings back then that attracted 200 or 300 people on a base of five or six or seven or eight thousand employees. And now we can reach every employee electronically as well, so it’s just a totally different kind of environment.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And with the shift to electronic communication, did you find that there was greater interest of employees in the materials that you were putting out? Were more people actually getting the message?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, I’m sure they are. I can’t cite figures for you on that though we have them—number of hits, number of times, number of individual users—all that sort of thing exists, which we had no way of measuring that kind of impact in the past.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. You can even tell how long somebody’s been—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Which is really—and it makes me think of something else. Our information specialists that do this sort of work—in the past, they sat down and they wrote something. Today they go out to write something. They also take a video camera with them and shoot their own video, which their technical—the range of technical skills is tremendous compared to what it had been in the past.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). And so that’s really the integrated multimedia piece.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Exactly.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes, that’s—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

But Communications, in the time I’ve been here, has reinvented itself six or seven times. It’s just a constant evolution. It happens a little at a time over a period of time, but what you see today is just completely different than what you see even ten years ago—the investment and the technology and the skillset of the people who work there is really tremendously changed.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now did you find as you went further and further up and were more and more a leader or manager and not so much on the frontlines of cranking things out? Did you—what was your learning curve with kind of keeping up with it?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, I knew you were going to get to that. Absolutely. It was tremendous. I want to give you a comprehensive answer for this. I absolutely realized that I—I used to be able to do it all. And there’s no way that could happen anymore. My contribution was that I understood strategy. I understood what we were trying to achieve. I understood science and medicine in a way that some of the others did not. But they brought—they were so much fun to be around—the younger people—because they brought so many new ideas and new approaches to things and new ways of making communications happen. It was hard for me to keep up. So what I did was I worked at keeping up on the things I should keep up on—strategy, science, medicine—and didn’t worry too much about the other.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Did you find that over time—?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Also one other thing. I invested less of my time in communications and more of my time in other things because I had an associate vice president who really ran the communications show the last few years.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Did you find that you had to rely on people who had that technical information about the new media to sort of tell you how it might be used—to give you ideas?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

No. I think I had—I paid attention to what was going on in social media, and I could appreciate a good idea from someone else. And I could also see on my own how we could do things.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. So—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

But they did a lot—they used humor a lot more than we ever did in the past. And there was a straight talk that they used that we didn’t so much in the past. It was very impressive to me. It was a lot of fun to be around those people. It really was.

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Chapter 07: Public Affairs: Internal Communications

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