4 Ideas for More Effective Internal Communication

Today, I bring you a post from another addition to our team, Jan Puckett Morrison.

Imagine that you have a group of people within your sphere of influence who are interested in your business. They know what you do, want to hear your latest news, and may even get miffed when they miss out on it. They tell everyone about their interaction with you – whether it’s good or bad.

Who are these people? They sound like the ideal customer base, right?

Actually, the group I just described are members of your own internal audience – they might be board members, advisory committees, donors or season ticket holders and most certainly, your employees.

Internal Audiences as Brand Ambassadors

Why should you be as concerned with internal communications to these groups as you are with external communications to your customer base?

Internal audiences are not only vital to the day-to-day success of your business, but they also have an immense influence on the public perception of your brand – the exact public perception you are working so hard to establish and maintain.

Happy employees and board members are your greatest brand ambassadors, maybe even more so than happy customers. They interact with your brand every single day, which offers a lot of opportunities for them to spread a positive message about your company – in real life and on social media.

The Impact of Happy Internal Audiences

In the past, disgruntled employees complained about their bosses over lunch or around the water cooler. Now, unhappy coworkers have virtual networks, such as social media, to air their grievances. Plus, the loss of stigma surrounding frequent job changes means that employees are more likely to jump ship if they aren’t invested emotionally.

This is why effective internal communications is so important for your company – if you don’t do it well, it could have a negative impact on your brand.

Happy internal audiences will be more likely to engage with your company’s social media profiles, offer positive reviews, bring in referrals, develop new business opportunities and generally contribute to the organization’s goals.

The happier they are, the longer they stick around, too, perpetuating all of these benefits into the future. The National Business Research Institute found that “69% of employees would work harder if they were better recognized for their performance and achievements.”

All of these positives may even motivate them to become customers, if they’re not already. That helps you achieve even more goals!

Good PR Starts In-House

Developing strong brand ambassadors starts within your own walls. You can do all the marketing and PR you want, but if your employees and ambassadors don’t feel informed or appreciated, they will drag down your brand.

In fact, Internal Relations and Public Relations are so intertwined that the Institute for Public Relations even released their own research about the most successful internal communications practices.

How to Develop an Internal Communications Plan

Creating an internal communications plan is very similar to a public relations plan. You can apply many of your best practices for communicating to external audiences to your internal audiences, and then add a little back scratching for good measure.

How do you do that? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Ask Them and Listen!

Open up a dialog with your employees so they feel comfortable expressing themselves and they feel heard. One way to do that is to conduct some research to determine how your employees like to receive news, what motivates them to do good work and what benefits they would like to see added.

You can do this with:

  • Anonymous Surveys – online or on paper
  • Informal Focus Groups (make sure to provide food!)
  • Q&A sessions with upper management
  • Casual meals or “happy hours” with multiple levels of management.

2. Use the Right Medium.

Once you have some data from your research, you can use the most effective medium to communicate with your employees, such as:

  • Digital or printed newsletters
  • Email
  • Digital signage
  • Instant message
  • Text message
  • Annual reports
  • Internal blogs or intranet message boards
  • Face-to-face interaction (meetings, lunches, etc.)
  • Closed social media groups (i.e. Facebook private groups) 

3. Keep Them Informed.

Educate your employees as much as possible on the ins and outs of your business. Be as transparent as possible about business procedures, salaries, budgets, performance expectations and goals.

ALWAYS inform your internal audience, especially employees, of news and announcements BEFORE the general public. Give them value-added content, as well, such as continuing education resources, industry news and employee profiles. Don’t use guilt trips to motivate action.

4. Recognize their Hard Work.

Use the research you gathered to offer employees the incentives they actually want. Ask your team if these methods would be effective for recognizing their hard work:

  • Referral programs
  • Internal Awards
  • Physical or Digital “Brag Boards”
  • Reward Program that offers gifts, extra vacation days or another “prize”
  • Exclusive offers/discounts
  • Access to training programs or other career-advancement opportunities

In our interconnected world, you can’t discount your internal audience as invaluable or unimportant. Employees especially can serve as your greatest brand ambassadors or your heaviest anchor keeping you from achieving your communications goals.

How have you successfully communicated with internal audiences? What kind of results did you gain from your efforts?

Jan has joined the Blue Kite Marketing team as Public Relations Director. She has 10 years of experience managing PR efforts for non-profit and for-profit companies across the country. Before she was our media relations maven, Jan led PR strategy for Nashville Ballet. Though she currently lives in California, she always roots for her University of Missouri Tigers and visits Nashville every chance she gets. You can connect with Jan on Twitter at @janpmorrison or LinkedIn.

About Jan Morrison

Jan Morrison is the Public Relations Director for Blue Kite Marketing. She has 10 years of experience managing PR efforts for non-profit and for-profit companies across the country. Though she currently lives in California, she always roots for her University of Missouri Tigers and visits Nashville every chance she gets. You can connect with Jan on Twitter at @janpmorrison or on LinkedIn.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Only thing I’d ‘argue’ is that the internal plan is part of the overall PR plan. As you say, PR is both internal and external as it directs comms and relations with a range of stakeholders. Another thing inherent in here if not explicit is integration, specifically with HR. Many of your excellent suggestions have now been taken over by HR, which is perhaps why many employees don’t feel they have a voice or are getting the information they need. Instead of being a two-way relationship (PR), it’s mostly one-way from the biz on benefits and regs (HR). To wit the first rule when approaching any communications directed at any specific audience, be sure it addresses the WIIFM. FWIW.

    • Jan Puckett Morrison

      You’re absolutely right that many of these tactics have moved from “communications” to “human resources,” which is an interesting subject by itself. Internal communication is definitely seen as more of an HR responsibility, but it must align with the overall communications strategy. No matter the department it’s been relegated to, you’re point is right-on that internal communications must always answer the question of WIIFM. Davina, thanks for the comment!