In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing digital world, getting internal communications right has never been so important - and that doesn’t just go for large, global corporations. Simon Wright, MD at Greenwich Design, talks about why creative design shouldn’t stop at external customer-focused campaigns and why businesses that don’t see internal communications as a priority are missing a trick.
So, we all understand the importance of keeping communications flowing through the organisation. We may even have an internal communications strategy in place. But how do we know if it is really working? Sadly, the short answer for many is it’s not.
The problem is certainly not a lack of communication. Businesses today find themselves swamped in legislations that they need to adhere to - Employment Law, Green Charters, Moral and Ethical codes of conduct are just a few of the reasons that see HR and Internal Communication Managers reaching for the Nurofen. It’s no wonder, then, that the pressure to consistently communicate so much information, to so many, often results in messaging being unclear, un-engaging and unnoticed all together.
Often organisations are so busy focusing on their products, services and external communications, that they neglect their most important assest – their employees. Internal communications are often, especially in times of economic difficulty, the first place to face budget cuts. However we are all savvy consumers – and as employees we become more important as ambassadors of the brand, so why should internal communications be seen as inferior to external, customer-facing campaigns?
Internal communications have to work much harder to cut through the noise. The core aim of most effective internal communication campaigns is to bring about some form of behavioural change. To generate the awareness and impact required to do this, the creative execution of an internal campaign needs serious consideration.
There are varying external requirements from organisations for internal communication support. For many global corporations, internal communications are part of the overall communications strategy and have to be branded in the same way as external activity. Some organisations require structured and strategic programs from specialist communications agencies with evidence of scientifically proven outcomes.
Of course, this can be very expensive, and for small to medium sized businesses, internal communications are seen as something that have to be delivered in-house due to cost. However, and this applies particularly to SME’s, the value to be gained in engaging an external creative agency can be transformational.
Smart internal campaigns can be created via a combination of smart thinking by Marketing and HR departments, but the effective communication of the campaign is most probably best found outside. Internal teams benefit from a wealth of company knowledge but don’t often possess the graphic design skills required to deliver bold messaging to a variety of people through a range of media, as specialised agencies do.
Using an agency to bring the idea to life ensures focus is given to both professional design and execution. For an impartial outsider, it is also easier to see the bigger picture and ensure the campaign remains relevant to the wider strategy. By creating compelling messages that capture the imagination, the results of campaign objectives have a greater chance of being successful – helping articulate, motivate and engage employees in creating positive change.
There’s no such thing as a captive audience – even an internal one. You have to work hard to build your audience and gain their attention and trust. And that doesn’t happen overnight. An internal communications programme should be viewed as a long-term investment rather than a one hit wonder.
All activity needs to be integrated with consistent messaging in the same way as external campaigns. Newsletters need to be published at set and regular intervals – not just when you have enough time to write them or enough news to fill them. Similarly, intranets and blogs must be updated often, or no-one will come back to read them.
Combine verbal and non-verbal communication methods, print and electronic media, to ‘layer’ messages and make sure you connect with everyone, no matter what their communication style.
When it comes to engaging with a workforce, one size most definitely does not fit all. The most successful internal communication campaigns are the ones that view employees as stakeholders. They learn from classic marketing techniques by breaking down those internal customers into groups, not simply based on location or job type, but on interests and motivations.