By: Gifty Bingley
An effective internal communication strategy is important to any successful organisation. It is significant to the people agenda – providing information, engagement, education and inspiration. It is key to team building.
Often than not, we prioritise communication to customers, shareholders, government officials, communities, vendors and suppliers but not among ourselves as an entire organisation or part of an organisation.
There are several tools and channels that make it easy to manage internal communications. You can develop your own or buy various software including SnapComms, Communifire and Yammer just to mention a few. You can also go from e-newsletters, emails, wall papers, screen savers, posters, SMS and intranet etc. There are also the one-to-group engagements – including staff durbars, roadshows and inter-departmental competitions, etc. Again, depending on the specific objective, you could go from branded content to personalized gifts.
As professionals managing a company’s reputation, the following are some of reasons why we need to pay attention to internal communication.
They are our first brand ambassadors
Employees represent our organisation – unofficially they are the spokespersons and brand ambassadors. They are the first point of contact for friends and family and anyone who wants to know more about the organisation. We do ourselves a lot of disservice when we take them for granted. As a rule, any communication that will go out to customers and the public should first be shared in-house. When people (including customers and potential employees) want additional information, beyond what is on our website and social media pages, they call friends and family that work in our organisations. The feedback they receive often carries more weight than what the commercials in the media say.
Creating an engaging work place and sense of higher purpose
As employees, we all want to know and understand the goal of the organisation, the plan to achieving it and most importantly how we can contribute. How can we achieve such targets if we don’t communicate consistently with staff including sharing the various KPIs and or milestones? It is important to rally everybody towards the goal.
People love to read about themselves, their colleagues and teams, a well-executed internal communication strategy makes us feel we are on the path to greatness in our organisation. It creates a sense of belonging, unity and or community. It reduces working in silos and employee turnover in some cases. When we are well informed about the vision and what others are working on, we collaborate better and support each other.
Keeping the brand promise and satisfying customers
Employees are executioners of the brand purpose. A good brand purpose enables us to differentiate and connect emotionally to our customers. Well informed, educated and engaged employees often feel empowered and this is reflected in how they work – attentive and supportive to the needs of our customers/stakeholders. They embody the brand purpose and promise and would go the extra mile to do an excellent job.
Staying in control of the narrative
Like any human institution the rumour mill is always buzzing. Are they selling, are they merging, is the CEO leaving, is the strategy and direction changing? It goes on and on… I am not saying we need to respond to everything, not at all. Sometimes silence can also be a strategy – if we have considered the options, risks and consequences thereof. Some rumour can be unsettling though and could affect employee morale and performance. As an organisation, it is important to be transparent and stay in control of the narrative. Internal communication can proactively reduce the rumour mill and take control of the narrative by keeping employees informed and updated.
It is important to crises management
Most organisations have a core Crises Management or Business Continuity Team which often includes a Communications professional. When there is a crisis, the priority is to clean up the situation and communicate to external stakeholders – customers, investors, and the media. Employees should be part of the stakeholders; they are bound to be even more worried and or confused. It is important to engage them – they are the ones going to manage the crises and implement the next steps. Remember what I said above about employees being brand ambassadors? It also helps to stay in control of the narrative including what they say unofficially to friends, family and customers.
From experience, internal communication has a way of keeping everybody together especially in very challenging times. By sharing information on the incident, the next steps and preventive measures we are all aligned and have a united front.
In conclusion, I am not saying that internal communication is the perfect solution to all employee-related issues. Far from it, internal communication should be part of the broader Employee Engagement Strategy which includes compensation and benefits, learning and development etc.
Often when I engage with my colleagues in communication roles they ask where it should sit – HR or Corporate Communications. I don’t think it matters – it depends on where the role can get great support and the capabilities to deliver tangible results.
I would also like to emphasise that creating the role does not necessarily guarantee success, we need to think through the competencies of the person(s) who handle the role. Some of the gaps can be fixed through learning and development.