How internal comms and PR can collaborate and harmonize

If you have distinct, separated content factories operating within your organization, you could be missing major opportunities for collaboration–and productivity. 

How PR and internal comms can collaboration

If you trust your internal communication team to support a business initiative internally, why stop there?

In any given business cycle, there are a few business goals external communicators must support. They could be commercial priorities, like increasing sales of Product X, or reputational priorities, such as promoting the company’s sustainability practices.

One tactic for promoting these objectives is to publish content to a company blog or news site. The material can then be promoted via the usual channels, such as social media, newsletters, and email blasts.

Feeding the beast

Often public relations teams are charged with managing the company news site. This means that, on top of regular duties, overwhelmed PR folks must find time to feed the content beast. This involves:

  1. Commissioning/creating content
  2. Reviewing and editing material
  3. Getting approvals from internal stakeholders
  4. Stylizing the post with photos, layouts or videos
  5. Publishing to maximize SEO
  6. Promoting the heck out of the content

The struggle is real. But it doesn’t need to be.

What if I told you there was a way to eliminate steps 1-4, so that you could concentrate on the promotional piece in step 6?

Look internally

Look no further than the other side of the aisle to the internal communications team for help. Internal comms is a content factory that specializes in creating and publishing content that supports your PR goals.

After all, even though the immediate audiences may differ (employees vs. outside world), both teams are supporting the company’s strategic goals. With just a tweak or two, PR can take readymade internal content and feed the external beast without breaking a sweat.

Content factory

A good editorial strategy for internal comms has five components that naturally support corporate comms’ strategy. Those five parts are:

  • Supporting business goals
  • Creating multimedia content
  • Knowing and targeting a specific audience
  • Having processes in place, from idea generation to publishing to measurement
  • Optimizing work to increase return on investment

Moreover, a savvy internal comms team:

  • Is data-driven
  • Is consistent in voice and branding
  • Knows the corporate voice and branding
  • Drives behavior

In other words, internal comms teams work very much like PR teams.

Example: Supporting a commercial priority

Say one of your priorities is to promote a new product line: a new running shoe that’s made of sustainable materials. PR may:

  • Secure an exclusive story with Runner’s World magazine
  • Write a general press release
  • Queue a dozen social media posts
  • Organize a call between the head of product and industry analysts

At the same time, internal comms is likely preparing a set of different but complementary content, such as:

  • An executive note announcing the product
  • A text interview with the head shoe engineer
  • A photo essay of how the shoe gets made
  • A video of the product being tested in the field
  • Photos of the team for internal digital signage
  • A story from the head of sales on how to sell the shoe to specific audiences

All the content the internal communications team curates can be used to support the PR strategy at no extra cost in time or labor.

For example, the photo essay of the manufacturing process can be used externally as:

  • A single photo essay for the corporate blog
  • Single or multiple posts on social media, especially Instagram
  • Given to a well-known runners blog in a couple of months

Here are four more ideas on how PR can use internal comms’ content about the running shoe to boost an external comms strategy:

  • The interview with the lead shoe engineer can be given to her college alumni magazine or student newspaper.
  • The photo essay can be given to a blog that focuses on environmental issues (because the shoe is made sustainably, a key sales pitch).
  • The video of the product testing can be posted to a company YouTube channel for anyone to see.
  • Pictures of the team that built the shoe can be featured in a recruiting blog, like Glassdoor or The Muse.

Important: Throughout the planning for the shoe release, internal and external teams must be in lockstep. Nobody should do double work. There’s no need for the PR team to ask the head of engineering to write a blog post if internal comms already interviewed her for an intranet story.

Play it right, and PR has material to share for months to come–long after the initial burst of activity has dimmed.

Blueprint for success

The above example strategy is a blueprint for all of your company’s commercial and reputational priorities.

Using content created by the internal comms team increases the ROI for that team while fulfilling PR’s need for content. Moreover, the entire comms operation becomes more efficient and effective in supporting business goals.

So the next time you’re tasked with managing a company blog or given a new comms priority, remember your colleagues in internal communications. Using internal comms’ content for PR strategies is a win-win for both teams.

Shaun Randol is CEO of Mister Editorial. He specializes in creating sustainable editorial strategies, and has worked in corporate communications at BlackRock and Bloomberg LP.

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