Mar 07, 2017 • Sheri Johnson • Blog
When clients bring us in to help with their marketing and communications programs, I’m regularly surprised by the intense focus on external audiences and often minimal emphasis on their internal stakeholders. Excitement about telling the story to customers, clients, industry leaders, influencers and other stakeholders seems to distract communicators from remembering to first tell the story to their own employees. This key audience needs to be prepared to respond to external inquiries about the information. And if you’ve built a strong culture, your employees can serve as brand ambassadors who help deliver the story to those important outside audiences. In fact, we think it’s so important, we call it internal marketing instead of internal communications.
What’s exciting about today’s internal marketing, is the myriad of ways to engage employees, keep them informed and encourage them to be brand ambassadors for your organization. We encourage our clients to think outside of the box. There’s more to keeping employees informed than the newsletter and all staff emails. If you think about telling your story in a compelling and interesting manner, just like you would for external audiences, you realize the opportunities presented by new technology and visual story telling. Here are five tips to help you maximize your internal marketing to engage and motivate employees to share your brand story.
- Start with strategy. Like all your marketing efforts, your internal marketing initiatives need to roll up to your business strategy. What are you trying to accomplish from a business perspective and how can your internal marketing strategy support that? Are you focused on reducing turnover, breaking down inter-departmental silos, increasing employee satisfaction, generating new revenue streams by opening new markets? Whatever your business goals, design your internal marketing strategy to support and advance those goals.
- Share widely. We like to say that with the absence of information, people assume the worst. Create an internal marketing program that shares both the good and not so good news with your employees. If you put information in context and use simple, sincere language, you arm your associates to share positive news, and to respond appropriately to inquiries about challenges. Employees want to be valued, and if you demonstrate you trust them with information, you help establish that sense of purpose.
- Use technology to engage. Today, a wide variety of tools to tell your story exist, and can make it more interesting and compelling for your workforce, especially if you’ve got associates that span all generations – from Baby Boomers to Millennials. By incorporating different tools, you ensure you reach everyone effectively. Think about leveraging company chat, visual storytelling, digital signage and other tactics to share your story broadly and engage people at all levels.
- Encourage social media sharing. If your employees feel comfortable sharing company news and information on their own social media channels, you’re on your way toward building true brand ambassadors. This represents just one way employees can share the company’s story to a wide audience and help build credibility for your brand. After all, passionate and engaged employees make ideal brand heralds.
- Build in feedback mechanisms. Even the best internal marketing programs can be improved. Technology changes, employee populations evolve, business goals shift – all of which impact the effectiveness of your program. By providing ways for your team members to give feedback, you help ensure your internal communications initiatives keep up with the times. With two-way communications embedded into your program, you’ll hear what is working and be able to pinpoint areas of improvement, so you’re always in front of the curve when it comes to sharing information and sparking engagement.
While these represent just a few of the best practices when it comes to focusing on internal marketing first, they serve as a solid foundation for any program. With a successful internal marketing program, you can be confident your external marketing efforts will be more effective as your employees join the marketing team in sharing the brand story.