Getting internal comms right: do what you do externally, internally
In some ways this is a pretty simple theory; the answer to how you create great internal comms is to follow the process you use to create great external comms. That process should look something like: start by understanding the audience, work out how to align your goals with theirs, choose an appropriate medium that will capture their attention and engage their interest, repeat key messages regularly and encourage dialogue at every step. Simple, right?
What else do we need to consider? Here are six areas which can make a big difference to the effectiveness of your internal comms:
Start with knowledge: talk to your audience, understand them, challenge your assumptions
This doesn’t always seem as straightforward with an internal audience as with an external one, paradoxically the ultimate goal for the external audience, knowing them really well, seems to limit engagement internally where deep knowledge is presumed to be common. Assumptions, politics and sensitivities all creep in. If you can’t get around that it may be worth getting someone external in to have those conversations. Without this information the quality of your internal communications will always be limited.
Be clear about the purpose — know what success looks like
Get under the skin of what you are trying to do too. The ever valuable ‘5 why’s’ approach can be a big help here. Yes you want to improve employee engagement with brand and marketing efforts, but why? Dig down a couple of levels and you can identify the specific changes you are trying to engender and get a richer picture of what success looks like.
Articulate it clearly and appropriately
Express the intent in a way that respects your audience, reflects their ways of communication and is aware of the context of delivery and what they are likely to be doing when they receive it. Choice of channel can make a big difference in how they perceive the communication, as can respecting the context in which it is delivered. For example, not interrupting known busy periods in their schedule. Creative implementation demonstrates that you value what you are saying, increasing the likelihood that your employees will pay attention.
Make it a conversation, not a broadcast
Be creative in the articulation, actively seek to open a dialogue and encourage the conversation. Irrespective of the channel, creating and encouraging the use of feedback channels, be they face-to-face, physical or digital makes a big difference. And of course, you have to have a process for responding. A feedback channel that isn’t monitored is going to be noticed, and quickly. Review the feedback, take it seriously, respond appropriately.
Repeat it, regularly, in different ways
Depending on what you are communicating this may be a long term campaign or a relatively short term piece of communication. Irrespective if you are trying to generate understanding, change behaviours or make any kind of lasting impact then repetition will be required and preferably not sending the same message/video/desk drop over and over again. Taking the time to express the same concepts in new ways helps recipients explore and understand it, generating knowledge which empowers them to actually act on what they have been told.
Share the praise, share the successes, be honest about the results
Reward those who engage with initiatives with public recognition. As social creatures we (generally) care about social capital, that is especially true in the working communities where we spend so much of our time. Sharing success stories reinforces the value of the employee contribution, the value of the initiative and clearly demonstrates respect for their efforts. If it doesn’t land be honest about that too, being upfront about how or why one initiative didn’t work creates a great platform for better results in future, pretending it didn’t happen will be noted by the team and may preclude their whole-hearted engagement in future.
Internal comms really shouldn’t that different to external comms, it is your internal audience who drive the success of any business, they create the experiences for the customers which either support, or undermine, the brand promises that you make. Considering the impact that experience has on the life time value of customers, their willingness to recommend and your ability to win new customers, internal communications really do deserve the effort.
Think about your internal audience as customers, the impact you want to make and how you intend to leave an impression and then deliver for them, in spades. Why? Because once they develop the knowledge, they will deliver it for you. Your customers will see the brand promises you made, as a reality. That will transform the results from your external campaigns, and for your business.
Jay is strategy director at design agency Make it Clear, where we help technology companies grow their business through effective B2B brand and marketing communications.