Companies tend to relegate marketing to the realm of customers, focusing on how they can influence more people to buy what they are selling. Another market that is just as important, however, is the company’s employees & the people who present the brand to customers. Yet companies very often ignore this critical constituency.
Internal marketing and communications are important because they’re the best ways to help employees make a personal connection to the products and services you sell. Without that connection, they may feel they are working on seemingly unrelated projects across the company, with the expectations set by external marketing efforts. However, when people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder, their loyalty to the company increases, and they share a common sense of purpose and identity.
Applying some of the principles of consumer advertising to internal communications can guide employees to a better understanding of the brand vision. When employees embrace that vision in their day-to-day activities, customers are much more likely to experience the company in a way that’s consistent with the external promises of the brand. Here are a few things companies can do to make sure they are sending the right messages to your team:
Review your communication practices. If attempted at all, internal communications are often poorly executed in many companies, from the standpoint of engaging and creating buy-in with employees. Management knows they have to keep people informed about the company’s strategy and direction, but few recognize that they have to convince employees of their individual and collective impact on brand strength. Too often, information is passed on to employees in the form of memos or newsletters, with the intent of telling people what the company is doing, not to make staff feel a sense of ownership or excitement towards business initiatives. If, for example, you intend to increase sales by 10 percent by the end of the year, communicate this company-wide and track progress, so everyone is aware of how close the organization is to meeting this goal. Ensure the goals are attainable and publicly reward employees when they are met. Making changes to the frequency and the ways you communicate with employees are the first steps in selling your brand internally.
Do your homework. Market research is a must for any consumer marketing campaign, but companies don’t typically conduct meaningful research when their employees are the audience. You can use many of the same tools for your internal marketing that you use for consumers and clients: focus groups, in-depth interviews and surveys. This will allow you to analyze your findings to create a comprehensive overview of your culture that shows how information flows through the organization and how people feel about it. Once you know what’s on their minds, you can tailor your internal campaign to hit the right targets. Align internal and external communications. Employees need to hear the same messages that you distribute to the marketplace. If they are told one thing by management but observe that a different message is being communicated to the public, they will develop a negative perception of the company’s integrity. Matching external and internal messages strengthens both sides and helps achieve your company’s goals. Internal communications become stronger because they are based on the same ideas that are leveraged in your marketing and PR efforts. Consumer marketing and PR are strengthened because core messages are based on employee behavior and attitudes, as well as on the company’s capabilities. By including employees in the marketing and communications equation, you can avoid creating a message that does not resonate with your people.
Trader Joe’s is a good example of a business that has aligned its internal and external messaging. From its fun, informative Fearless Flyer mailer to its family-friendly, in-store experience and cheerful crew, every step matches the brand’s personality.
Make brand messages part of the day-to-day work experience. Once you are confident that you have your internal and external marketing aligned, you are ready to develop or refine materials that you can communicate to your team. Many companies approach this task in a way that is removed from the reality of how the business operates; companies that understand the importance of employee buy-in communicate their confidence in their team. At Zappos, for example, staff members are encouraged to speak on behalf of the brand to vendors and customers and at various industry events, promoting a strong, transparent culture that leads to happier employees and superior customer service. When you trust employees to be the voice of your brand, they’ll feel more invested in your message.
Otherwise employees can become cynical about messages from management and easily dismiss them. Ensure that your communication materials ring true for employees, reflecting and reinforcing what people care about and what makes them want to come to work every day.
Solicit feedback and participation. Your company intranet or internal social media channels like Yammer can be effective facilitators of communication and interaction, especially if your organization is large and geographically diverse. Often when companies do not use their own internal channels for candid dialogue, employees seek out sites like Glassdoor to voice their complaints. Some forward-thinking organizations launch interactive intranets or functionality to the communications, to allow people to ask questions and view the replies to questions others have posted. The CEO of Accenture, for example, even includes a feedback button on every internal message that goes out to employees and personally responds to every question or suggestion.
It’s very easy to relegate internal communications to the back burner in order to focus on areas like developing new products and services and tending to the bottom line, but it can be self-defeating to overlook this important need. There is no substitute for personal contact from an organization’s highest levels that cascade across the entire company & failure to communicate at a personal level can undermine even the best of internal marketing campaigns. Just remember that if employees do not care about their company, they will not be genuinely engaged in securing its future. It’s up to you to give them a reason to care.