We recently looked at the importance of cultivating a strong internal communications environment, and how this in-turn contributes to more effective external communications. Here, we examine some of the practical ways an organisation can implement a strong internal communications plan looking at messaging, technology, engagement, and listening.
Whether communicating internally to staff, or externally to press, it’s a good idea to simplify company messaging as far as possible. To this day, a good deal of even medium-to-large sized enterprises do not take the time to create solid explainer documents in the form of product literature, specification sheets, presentation decks, client sectors, etc. It sounds like an easy box to tick, but you’d be amazed how many companies simply do not find the time to do the initial due diligence on this front.
The key here is not to create a diktat that is forever set in stone, but in actual fact the opposite. By providing staff with a concise starting point through which they can understand company product offerings, mission statement, growth ambitions, etc., you are actively inviting them to let their imagination come to the fore and contribute to the next round of ideas and expansions. By agreeing on the simplest of terms first, you ensure that all involved begin on the same page and that all future evolutions of company messaging move in the same direction.
Brining in new staff can always be challenging, but by building upon this concept further to stay on top of training and management documents, companies can make the process of integrating new employees as seamless as possible.
New communications technologies have revolutionised our world, changing the way we work, the way we socialise, and even the way our individual brains communicate with the outside world. The main thing to recognise here is that these changes are already well underway, and the days of bespoke internal communication channels such as intranets, FTPs, share-drives and so on are fading fast. Even hardware teaches us this message, where mobile phones can provide around the clock access to email, as opposed to office-confined centralised computer.
If your employees are already using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and LinkedIn, then it makes sense to go out and meet them on those platforms, as opposed to trying to pull them back to a centralised hub. In this way, employees can also become strong brand advocates and brand ambassadors for your business.
Of course security and regulation remain important, and as a company grows it may feel the need to invest in dedicated corporate messaging software, or indeed to create its own. But at a time when the technological infrastructure is already in place, and working habits are changing to become more flexible, more freelance, and more off-site based, it’s important to properly assess the value of building centralised internal communications platforms versus distributing information more freely to meet employees where they already sit.
Once you have a concise message, and are clear on the most effective channels that can be used to deliver it, employees need to be engaged with regularly and transparently.
One way to understand this is by way of a more familiar external communications example: dealing with journalists. If you want to build up a successful mutual relationship with members of the press, it is not merely enough to send them your news releases and hope for the best. You go about your media business by opening up a dialogue, offering opinion pieces, asking questions about where company spokespeople may be best placed to offer analysis and advice, and so on. It is from these collaborative relationships that coverage ultimately comes.
The same is true of employee engagement. Simply sending out company emails or intranet updates that offer little or no opportunity for interaction is no longer appropriate, particularly when said employees are sitting there with a Twitter account in the palm of their hand and can at any time flip from an advocate to an adversary. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but by taking an open, engaging, two-way approach to internal communications, you are building up goodwill towards your company from the inside out, and instilling the values and tonality that you wish to speak with throughout your workforce.
Which brings us onto the final area of importance: listening. All too often, we think about the information gathering process in terms of data, analytics, measurement. But particularly where colleagues and co-workers are concerned, making the simple attitudinal leap analysis to listening can make all the difference in terms of how effective – and sustainable – a company’s internal communications process can become.
Whether this is in the form of debriefs following sales meetings, regular catch-up calls with heads of departments, or more informal gatherings like company socials or sporting events, constant communications on a human level is key. All of these approaches require as much of a cultural change as a logistical one. Speak to people how you would like to be spoken to is always a good start. But more practically than that it’s about thinking about the flow of information within your company, and how its internal dissemination ultimately impacts the overall brand externally.