When it comes to successful communications, it can often be useful to think in terms of key stakeholder segments: clients, investors, shareholders, media and other groups are all important audiences to be engaged with. But one demographic that is often overlooked in communications planning is employees, and as recent events in the political world have shown, failing to engage properly with those immediately around you can have damaging consequences.
Earlier this year, RDF looked at the importance of internal communications, and how successful public relations begins at home. By employing an Atlantean model – building communications from the inside out – being consistent, and engaging in what we call conscientious transparency, businesses can achieve a more unified approach to messaging.
But in thinking about employee engagement, implementing an effective dialogue needs to run much more deeply than through smart PR. Your people are your most important asset. Advocacy enables a brand to build a consensus firstly inside, and then subsequently outside of an organisation’s walls, and in finding a consensus the art of listening becomes just as important as instructing.
To better understand this, we can look beyond the corporate walls into the political realm, where in the 2019 Nigerian Elections, Presidential Candidates, Atiku Abubakar, and Muhammadu Buhari; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; and Senate President Bukola Saraki, all lost their polling units. Much has been written about how and why this vast change in Nigeria occurred, but many commentators have focussed on an inability to properly engage with voters.
Of course, politics can seem to provide an extreme example, when compared with the corporate world. But when it comes to internal politics, the same rules of engagement still apply. You may be the most senior executive in your company, but if you are not listening to the people running it on the ground on a day-to-day basis, then you will ultimately become disconnected.
In a recent article for Forbes, Irish author Bryan Collins argues that “Successful leaders spend as much time honing softer skills like listening and empathy as they spent on technical skills earlier in their careers.” While the image of the over-friendly, hoodie-wearing CEO may by now have begun to become a cliché, it’s fair to say that a little bit of dialogue goes a long way.
In beginning to look at tangible ways to put this into practice, the PR world offers a useful point of reference.
In days gone by, public relations revolved around companies sending out press releases, and then patiently waiting – or worse, hassling – to see if journalists were going to print their stories. We now know that a successful public relations plan looks more like a two way street. Reporters know what their editors/audiences/advertisers want to read, and by maintaining an open dialogue with them, your company can provide relevant information.
See the connection here? Your employees are the people talking to your clients, and to potential clients, every single day. They are the ones who are best placed to figure out exactly what it is your audiences want, and how your company can go about delivering them. Failing to properly engage with employees not only isolates executives from their employee base and dilutes messaging, it removes an entire level of free intelligence that can help your business perform better.
Engaging with employees is a crucial component in the successful communications planning of any business. Your team represents not only another stakeholder group to tick, but a vital and valuable resource that provides daily feedback and insights. Employee engagement is your most important communications play, because your team is your most important asset.