The CIPR recently launched ‘Making it count’ a report to highlight the strategic value and effectiveness of internal communications. It is a valuable contribution based on a wealth of interviews, but overall, I’m left asking the question, is internal communications redundant?
I ask this, not because I don’t see the value in communicating with employees, but because for me, more than ever this is an artificial silo. The line that separates internal and external audiences is wafer thin. What’s needed is a coherent, focused, joined-up communications approach.
Communications campaigns should work from the inside out. Sadly, far too often I witness organisations developing siloed approaches:
External communications will invest time and resources into building fabulous campaigns that make noise externally, but the majority of employees are the last to know about these campaigns. If they are lucky, they might see something in a company newsletter reporting past campaigns, or they might read about them via the media. From an internal perspective, at best this is a missed opportunity for feedback and gaining internal advocates. At worst, it can be seen as disrespectful and disjointed. If your employees feel this, imagine what your customers will think?
Likewise, internal communications will often invest time in developing separate strategies, which at best duplicate effort, or at worst run the risk of confusing your employees. If your employees are confused, again, imagine what your customers would think?
What’s the answer? If you want to communicate something externally, you should be building your communications strategy from the inside out. Start with your internal audiences and then build out from there. Treat every step as a meaningful opportunity to listen, optimise and refine. But don’t treat this inside-out approach as something you just have to do, it will be transparent to employees and won’t win their backing.
Addressing your internal audiences first, as part of your communication strategy, gets people on-board, allows you to test and refine your approach, and is your best opportunity to turn employees into advocates for the business because they are truly involved and invested.
It would be in all communicators’ interest to work together as one joined-up unit to develop inside-out thinking which brings more focus to your message and brings the organisation together with a common purpose. Let’s stop asking which communications discipline is the best, and who adds the most value to an organisation, and instead let’s unify efforts. If we do this, I think that we can double the impact we achieve.