Our agency frequently works on internal communications projects for our clients, especially in life sciences. As an external agency, we have a unique perspective – we get to dive into our client’s spaces. Each company has a different communication strategy, and each team and department, its own spin. Here are a few outsider perspectives on internal communications.
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SO, WHAT IS INTERNAL COMMUNICATION?
In a nutshell: Internal Communication is how a company interacts with its people, and how the people interact with it.
Wikipedia says: Internal communications (IC) is the function responsible for effective communications among participants within an organization.
We like to say that internal communication includes everything said or shared inside your company, no matter the method. It can involve:
1) How a company communicates
2) The tools, platforms, channels and spaces where the communication happens
TOP CHALLENGES OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS
Overloaded, overwhelmed and competing priorities
Lack of interest, engagement and feedback
Providing top-down information only
Minimal measurement and adaption
Guess what? The above challenges are not limited to any particular industry – they apply to all kinds of companies and, for that matter, all kinds of communication, external or internal, personal or professional. (That’s right, consider that list and think of your friendships!)
So, how do we tackle these challenges when working with our clients? How do we get internal communications right, as an external agency? Here are a few tips!
COUNTER OVERWHELMING EMAIL OVERLOAD AND RISE ABOVE COMPETING PRIORITIES
Come up with a solid strategy before starting; plan for how you will communicate to your audiences. Then edit it. Cut it down and send only messages that matter. Make sure the audience knows what’s in it for them.
And don’t rely only on email, especially if it’s text-heavy. No one wants to read a book between meetings.
To cut down on the volume of email, consider alternative methods (company social media, Microsoft Teams), or simply sending out a reliable weekly/monthly newsletter summarizing all of the priorities for the department. Got a lot to say? Host a Q&A or an Ask Me Anything (AMA) -style meeting and invite your target audience to attend.
ADDRESS THE LACK OF INTEREST, ENGAGEMENT AND/OR FEEDBACK
Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, says “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
When people are drawn in – to your email, speech, meeting, etc. – and when they’re enjoying it, they are much more likely to open up and provide valuable feedback.
Your readers are human (duh!). And they’re typically smarter than you think. Make sure your campaign is engaging and a little (ok, a lot of) fun.
There’s no point in over-explaining or being too dry. Add a little humor or write something more personal, and it just might actually be read.
The term “engagement,” as in “engaging your audience,” is a huge buzzword. As a content creator, the challenge is to choose a single call to action to focus your audience on.
So, take the initiative and be creative! Be different. It doesn’t have to be complex. Make friends. For your meeting, bring in colored markers and a giant canvas. Ask people to reply with an emoji-only. Use video! Consider snacks.
RESIST PROVIDING TOP-DOWN INFORMATION ONLY
Top-down information often results in one-way communication, stifling feedback. Tackle this impression by creating a group of ambassadors. Your chosen few dignitaries can help you by collecting information from their teams or colleagues, championing and empowering others.Make sure your ambassadors are informed and proactive, able to bring enthusiasm and positivity. Prepare separate, privileged communications for them, encourage free-flowing communication, and ask them to share results.
MEASURE, ADAPT, REPEAT
If we don’t know what we get right, we can’t do more of it. If we don’t know what we get wrong, we can’t adapt.
Do you have a 1000-word email with more than five 4-syllable words? The fact is that an approximately 100-word email with mostly pictures will be more effective than any longer text. Your audience may be different, but if you send out two emails and notice the difference in click-through-rates, pay attention. Measure results and adapt to improve!