There’s a great quote: “Don’t envy what people have; emulate what they did to have it.”
That’s especially true when it comes to internal communicators, who often find themselves in the shadow of their more glamorous marketing colleagues.
Rather than covet their bigger budgets, we should uncover the secrets to their success.
That’s not to say internal communicators aren’t doing a brilliant job, but marketing teams do have bigger budgets, are involved from the beginning of new initiatives and don’t have to explain (for the umpteenth time) what they do.
Let’s take a closer look at our professional cousins to see what we can learn:
Have a head for figures
Marketing pros have long had the advantage of being able to link their work to increased business, sales and profits. Now internal communicators can, too.
With the rise of social media, employees have a voice for the first time. Many are sharing with the world exactly what it’s like to work in their companies, and businesses are sitting up and taking notice.
Not only should this mean more investment in internal communication, but it also provides for more meaningful measurement. As employees increasingly become ambassadors for organizations, we can measure the impact of our internal communications by correlating them to external initiatives once employees have repeated, shared or acted upon our messaging.
Ultimately, we will be able to demonstrate the value we add to the business.
Obviously, what we do is about far more than increasing profits, but being able to prove it will help us secure budgets, influence and respect that will help us engage with employees even more effectively.
Shout a little louder
The nature of what we do often has us staying behind the scenes and making others look good, especially as we try to empower others to take responsibility for communication. As the lines between internal and external messaging blur, marketing will become less and less about big-bang campaigns and more about employee advocacy. For now, marketing teams excel at doing their own PR in a way that we do not.
Not only don’t we shout loudly enough about our successes, but we don’t often communicate about how we communicate. So, it is any surprise that people then don’t understand quite what it is we do?
It’s time to take our own advice and set an example of what good communication looks like. Tell people what your remit is, what you’re working on and the rhythm of communication within the business. Make yourself visible, get out and talk to people, sit with a different team every week, and write a regular blog about the communications team.
Practice what you preach.
Raise the bar
Credibility is essential to any profession, and marketers might have an edge on internal communicators due to their commitment to accreditation and professional development. Marketing degrees and diplomas are commonplace, positioning it as a respected profession that holds itself to a high standard.
Although I don’t believe that you must hold a degree to be a good communicator, demonstrating that you have industry-recognized knowledge, skills and experience can be extremely powerful.
Internal communicators are catching up with qualifications and professional development programs, so why not consider how this would help you develop as a practitioner. Think what it would say to the wider world about our industry if we all held ourselves to the same standard.
It’s easy to accuse marketing pros of having style over substance, but when it comes to making an impact, they are the masters—and they have to be. It’s a crowded marketplace, so it’s easy to get lost in the noise, but it’s also a very public arena where there’s a lot to lose. With boldness and creativity comes the potential for failure.
If we want to encourage employees to share lessons and experiences to provide a better service for clients and customers, we must set the example.
In comparison, internal communications campaigns are often more conservative, whether that’s due to budget restrictions or a strong focus on strategy or messaging. However, creativity doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can help convey your messages more effectively—as long as you aren’t afraid to fail.
After all, isn’t experience just another word for failure?
Consider your content
Have you noticed that blogs and insights shared by organizations online increasingly take the form of lists, tell personal stories and encourage comments and discussion? Marketing teams have understood how their audiences receive information in their personal lives, so they reflect it in their marketing content.
Though this approach might not work for all audiences, it’s worth reviewing your approach to internal content and finding opportunities to convey messages in more engaging ways.
Invest time in creating a content strategy so you’re clear on the types of content you’ll communicate, where and why, and what style they’ll be in. Be creative with your headlines, break content into digestible chunks using subheadings, keep it short, be authentic, tell stories, and make sure you answer the audience’s elemental question, “What’s in it for me?”