11 Sep The fresh and logical approach to internal communications
- Use proven brand models
- Evoke positive emotions
- Don’t forget to market
In some areas, internal communications is still seen as the poor second cousin to the glitz of external communications. Although I think that the importance of internal communications has been elevated by COVID causing more people to work remotely, the reality is that – COVID or no COVID – your people create and sustain brands so it’s vital that you get employees behind you.
Perhaps the mistake often made is to just start communicating. That mad rush for content every quarter or so. Let’s take a step back and plan internal communications in the same way that Marketers would develop an external plan.
In creating an effective internal communications strategy, Sherpa follows a classical and complete Brand and Marketing approach.
What is it that you need to influence or change?
Culture? Performance? Alignment? Diversity? Cooperation? Change? Talent attraction? Talent retention?
How will your internal communications support the business and brand strategy? The business strategy is easy to find but often, a brand strategy is missing in an organisation. Given that your people create the customer experience (i.e. the brand), if HR is running internal communications as they often do, a knock on the Marketing Managers door may well be an early benefit of designing an internal communication programme.
This is all about making the organisation a better place for your employees. Keep your vision simple and aspirational. And scribe your vision from your employees’ point of view.
It could be:
One day, I’ll feel informed and valued by my company and understand the opportunities open to me.
Get the picture?
We could do the corporate-speak thing here but let’s focus again on viewing things from the employees’ point of view. What would you like them to say or think? Write it down as objectives.
“I didn’t know that Logistics was so cool. I’d like to work there”.
“I now understand the role that I play in retaining customers even though I don’t see them”.
“I read articles about successful people in our business. I learnt from that”.
“Fantastic that we landed those new clients. Feeling proud!”
“I thought Sales just ran around all day. The planning behind a big pitch is intense”.
These objectives are all easily measured and when enough people are saying similar things, you know that the plan is working.
The analytical side provides easy enough measurement as well.
Year One: Move engagement from 27% to 43%.
Year Two: Achieve 67%.
At this stage, you have not even thought about content and distribution as this will unfold later in developing the Essence of your plan.
You now have to create focus areas. What will form the framework and with that, what kind or reaction or emotion will that create amongst your employees. If the message is unlikely to have an impact, why bother.
Start at the bottom (Content Subject Matter) and ladder up each column until you get to Emotional Benefit.
It follows that one must distinguish between communications designed to manage circumstances mentioned in Point 1 and not use such media to communicate operational or process issues. In order to achieve your objectives (see Pont 3 for an example), you need to be very clear on what’s in and what’s out. In this instance, you could make an objective decision that processes are not in scope. The last column is out!
If you’ve got this far, you now need to draw a stake in the ground. So create a short positioning statement. And make sure that your sponsor and the Executive buy into it.
If you don’t you’ll always be batting nice ideas which detract from your objective such as:
- “… what about we get staff to submit food recipes …”
- “… can we have more pictures …”
- “… Ms Smith’s 97 year old mother passed… can we do a tribute…”
You know the drill. A short positioning statement would look something like this, tailored obviously to your internal communications strategy. Avoid cupcakes. Cupcakes are nice but they don’t achieve objectives.
“Our internal communications has the objective of achieving A, B and C. To achieve this we’re going to do X, Y and Z”.
The personality of your internal communications talks to tone and style. This guides copywriting and graphics. Your internal communications must have a distinct personality consistent with the Essence, Objectives and Vision.
The personality might not reflect that of your sponsor or even yourself but that’s irrelevant. Once you define the personality it becomes your reference. And again, make sure that you get it signed off by the sponsor so that you don’t have to bat personal preferences of others each time.
Let’s use the classic P’s of marketing and keep it simple.
- Product: How often will you publish? Is it quarterly or monthly? Or as and when? There may well be publications scheduled at various times but good news happens NOW, so think about allowing for ad hoc news. There is a direct correlation between frequency and levels of engagement? How many articles will there be?
- Price: What’s the budget? Is there a cost: benefit when looking at objectives?
- Place: What media will you use? Email? Whatsapp business? An App? Mobile? Printed? A combination?
- Packaging: What about “branding” your communications. Give it an appealing, relevant name. When it lands in the inbox or mobile, what does it look like? Does it stand out from the plethora of normal communications?
- Promotion: Think about a launch plan to create excitement. Send out teasers prior to a publication. Do a PR job internally, especially with the Exec and Management as you will rely on them for content support.
- People: Get feedback from the audience. Show the Executive how you’re achieving objectives. Stay close and in tune.
We saw a big improvement in the quality of internal communications during lockdown. It’s time to now take it to another level.
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Sherpa is a Brand Strategy, Design & Communications Company. Sherpa uses the same skills required to reach and connect with external audiences to achieve internal communication objectives, providing a refreshing experience for HR professional managing this portfolio.
We believe that it takes a bunch of skills to really connect internally. Strategy (Planning). Content (Engage). Copywriting (Connect). Design (Excite). PR (Influence). Analytics (Measure).