Enter if you dare… the IC house of horrors

27 October 2020 | James Blake


Crrreeeeeaaaaaakkkk… [that’s the sound of the door to a scary haunted mansion opening, by the way] welcome to the internal communications house of horrors!

With Halloween just around the corner, we thought it would be dastardly of us to round up some of your IC horror stories, those blood-curdling moments when you realised you’d made a monster of a mishap or when your tech went terrifyingly tits up.

From sending out links which took people to websites definitely NOT safe for work to missing out essential vowels in certain words, we’ve captured some truly frightful fables and spooky stories guaranteed to give you the willies!

So bolt the door, draw the curtains, pour yourself a stiff drink (you’re going to need one) and sit back as we poke about in the gruesome basement of our careers, or LinkedIn as it’s also known, to unearth some of those bone-chilling moments when it all went horrifyingly wrong….

Mwah hah hah [insert own evil laugh here].

X-rated chiller

Our Internal Communications Director Carly has her own horror story to tell.

We’re not sure whether it happened one dark and stormy night in an abandoned old house, but it’s a gruesome tale nevertheless, one which is bound to give you nightmares for years to come.

It’s not clear who pressed send on this particular employee communication, but it went out somehow with a placeholder triple X-rated URL underneath the ‘click here for more information’ button. Awkward!

On the bright side, Carly says she heard it was probably the most clicked-through link in the organisation’s history – well, it is all about those engagement numbers!

Hot on the cloven heals of that devilish oversight is another ghastly recollection, weirdly in the same vein as Carly’s, from Holly MacLeod, Internal Communications Manager at Citizenship Canada.

This time however Holly was directing staff members to a phone sex line! XXX websites and sex lines? What is with internal communicators!?

“Years ago, a colleague once didn’t verify the phone number given to us by the subject matter experts,” Holly explained.

“It turns out there was a small typo in it, so we ended up accidentally posting the phone number to a phone sex chat line instead of the therapy, counselling and mental health line we were promoting!

“I can only imagine the poor employees’ reactions!”

The moral to her story, Holly says, is to assume nothing and check everything. Especially when it’s sensitive. Sounds like good advice to us.

Feeling like a right Charlie

Here’s a positively petrifying proofing tale from James Frankland, Communications Manager at Network Rail.

“When I worked at Watford Football Club we had an agency that did the hard yards on the design and layout of the matchday programme for us,” James said. “A semi-regular feature was from the club chaplain and, in this issue, someone from the agency had spoken to him directly but misspelt the feature as ‘From the Chaplin’. They asked for an image recommendation to accompany it, so I dug up a humorous photo of Charlie Chaplin and sent it back to them as a joke.

“Lo and behold, the next proof of the programme came back with a full-page image of Chaplin next to a fairly serious and sombre feature from the chaplain!”

Thankfully, James says the errant image was noticed and pulled before the programme was published.

Not all of James’ stories have such a happy ending, however. The chairman of the club at the time kept referring to their new sponsors, Loans.co.uk as Loans.cock! (back on the sex theme again I see!)

O… what a mistake!

Spare a thought for poor Peter Moloney, too, Corporate Communications Specialist at CHEP. Peter says he sent out an email informing his company of the sad passing of a colleague but, despite several approvals and checks, the message contained the wrong name.

It was also blushes all round for Simon Andrew, Director at Me [plural]. Simon’s story is almost too hideous to share, suffice to say in future none of his communications will ever leave the ‘o’ out of discounts again!

Sometimes it’s not what you email it’s who you email it to… isn’t that right Sara Kent?

Sara, a Communications Consultant at East Railway Company, posted to say she got her ‘all users’ email address mixed up with Allan the MD. Thankfully the email was just asking for feedback and approval, but as you can imagine that could have all gone horribly wrong.

Sara also revealed just how many times she’s sent out emails talking about the public but misspelling it without the l…! Honestly, internal communicators are obsessed!

Even Helen Schick, Head of Organisational Development and Engagement at Alzheimer’s Society is on the act after she confessed to writing the word ‘tit’ in a draft email from the CEO to all staff.

Rather than signing with off… ‘we hope you get a chance to look at it’… poor Helen invited staff members to look at tit instead. It was her first week in a new job too.

What a cock-up

Email subject lines also appear to be a massive trap covered in banana leaves which we’ve all stumbled into inadvertently at one stage or another.

Jo Sparks, Founder and Director at Communications Sparks Ltd, said a colleague once sent out an email inviting recipients to a Cock QCQ inspection rather than a mock one!

Meanwhile, Baxter Willis, a Managing Partner at Reply, could have sparked widespread panic with one of his internal comms articles.

“I once did a lot of internal articles for a huge company based in Telford,” explains Baxter. They had a famous sports team called the Vipers who everyone was a big supporter of.

“I meant to publish an article with the headline ‘Vipers lose on Telford Campus’, but instead I published an article ‘Vipers loose on Telford campus’. It was the second most-read article ever!”

So, what have we learned from our Halloween IC horror stories apart from the fact that internal communicators are clearly subconsciously obsessed with sex?

As Andrew Batty General Manager at My Film Crew says…

  • Never hold a F2F event unless you rehearse it over and over.
  • Get Exec signoff in writing every time.
  • Check the spelling of employees’ names in the company address book.
  • Never press ‘send’ unless an intended member of your audience has read it (and checked the links) first.
  • Dial every number you include in your copy to make sure it’s not a sex line!

So, this Halloween, be careful how you email, triple check those links and phone numbers and double up on your spell checks, otherwise next year this blog could be all about you… mwah hah hah!