By now, I hope anyone who is a regular follower of this column understands the importance of effective marketing and communications to businesses (if not, give me a call, ASAP!). However, there is still one key area companies sometimes overlook when it comes to creating a marketing strategy, and that is internal communications.
It is astonishing to think that there are companies out there that still undervalue or neglect corporate communications, especially internal communications. But they do exist and I am sure their businesses are likely suffering as a result.
So, one may ask, “why is internal communication so important?” We’ll get to that. But first, let’s define internal communication.
Internal communication is all about promoting effective communications among people within an organisation. It involves producing and delivering messages and campaigns on behalf of management, as well as facilitating a dialogue with the people who make up the organisation. Simply put, internal communication is responsible for the active flow of information among people within an organisation. The purpose of internal communication is to ensure that everybody in the organisation has the information they need to work towards, and eventually achieve, a common goal. This can mean anything from announcing a new policy or informing people of an upcoming event, to conducting an organisation-wide engagement or culture audit. Internal communications is usually an amalgamated responsibility of Communications and Human Resources departments, but I prefer it is professionally anchored by Communications department.
Some companies may not have the resources to invest in planning an internal communications strategy, while others have planned a strategy but might not have the capacity or tools necessary to maintain it. That’s understandable, but as you continue to read this article, you will see reasons why communication, especially internal communication, is imperative for the health of any organisation. Why? Because if an organisation has people, it’ll need to communicate with them clearly and regularly.
Here are a few ways to rethink your internal communications for enhanced, effective and well-motivated outputs by members of your organisation.
i. Create “Brandstanders,” Not Grandstanders
We all know people who love to grandstand. They talk a good game, but ultimately, they’re a lot of shine and very little substance. When your employees talk about your brand, what are they actually saying? To be certain they’re communicating the message you want, you need to create “brandstanders” – these are people that will stand by your brand, believe in it wholeheartedly, and work to convey the brand’s values, core beliefs and mission. As an example, Coca Cola offers a “Coca Cola Ambassadors” programme for employees, which is essentially a branding boot camp. This programme ensures that anyone representing the brand is well-versed in what they stand for and how they operate.
What to do: Take a look at your employee on-boarding and training procedures. Are they primarily focused on mobilising deposits, meeting targets and increasing the bottom-line (these are important, I know)? If so, start brainstorming ways to make new employees feel as though they’ve found a home, not just a job.
ii. Listen First, Talk Later
When we talk about communications, we often forget that listening is one of the largest components. We spend tons of time and money on research that tells us what your customers and clients are thinking, but what about your employees? Have you taken the time to ask your employees what they think about your brand, and what they need, to be better ambassadors?
What to do: Schedule some time to hear out your employees. Whether it’s a survey (don’t forget the incentives), or a session of “Ask the CEO,” be sure to prioritize listening to your employees’ perspectives. Or better yet, have a third party solicit feedback from your staff! Then you can craft better, more relevant communications.
iii. Keep Your Cool
Playing hard to get may not always work when it comes to romance, but it can be an effective marketing tactic to keep your audience wanting more. Overwhelming your employees with e-mails, meetings, reviews, retreats and more can have a negative impact, and lead to them becoming burned out on your brand.
What to do: Craft a communications schedule that is carefully plotted and optimized with the right messages, at the right times. Limit internal campaigns, but do be prepared to strike a balance between holding back, and hitting the mark on necessary frequency for retention of your message.
iv. Narrow Your Focus
When the entire company gets spammed with e-mails, day in and day out, the messages become little more than white noise. And in fact, a majority of the time, there are very few messages that need to be communicated to every single person in the organisation
What to do: Break communications down by audience, and send only to the relevant department. Also, make sure any information is coming from the right person. The CEO, likely, isn’t the person to be communicating changes in HR policy, and similarly, the head of marketing shouldn’t be sending messages about major organisational restructuring.
v. Be an Open Book
It might feel like playing your cards close to the vest is taking the easy road when it comes to major communications, but keeping big news under wraps can lead to anxiety, confusion and even resentment from employees who feel they were intentionally kept in the dark.
What to do: If big changes are on the way for your business, resist the urge to keep it hush-hush. If you’re planning a merger, expansion or other major shift, work on a strategy that will help team members feel included in the transition. As a bonus, some of your staff might have real, actionable insights on dealing with the changes… while others seize on new opportunities to advance and grow.
Reaching goals can be tough. But it is even tougher when you have an uninformed team. So, prioritize internal communication. It engages your team, reduces conflicts, builds relationships, motivates and promotes a mutual trust and respect between you and your employees.