The internal communications team needs eyes in all corners of an organization.
Internal communications supports every business function from IT to HR to finance to research and development. It connects employees and ensures they’re aware of the issues that affect them.
When internal communications and marketing unite, they’re remarkably powerful. Sadly, these departments often act like estranged family members.
Why? Are they too busy? Do they have too many conflicting priorities?
It’s frustrating when these teams miss opportunities to connect the dots between customers and employees, but it happens all too often. Consider this situation:
To reposition an organization’s brand, the marketing team created an integrated external campaign. It was an exciting campaign, but the marketers didn’t mention it to the internal communications team until two weeks before launch day.
Amazing customer service and employees’ personal touch constituted the foundation of the repositioned brand, but no one told the customer service team. How can the campaign’s external messages reflect the customer experience if frontline teams aren’t aware of them?
Where does internal communications live?
Internal communications departments’ structures differ hugely from one organization to another. Some departments sit within HR, others within PR-some even share a space with IT. Internal communications only occasionally exists as a standalone department.
There are advantages to each of these setups, and there is a lot of debate over where internal communications should live.
To help internal communications pros stay current on their organizations’ happenings, they should embed themselves within other departments. They’ll stay up to date on their given department while staying connected to the rest of the internal communications team. They’ll understand what each department needs from internal communications, and vice versa.
Whether it’s a permanent arrangement or a close working relationship cultivated over time, when internal communications maintains strong, consistent communication with marketing, the departments form a powerful partnership.
But it’s not always a bed of roses.
Here are some obstacles to bridging the departments:
- Executives always seem to approve external campaigns at the last minute, which makes it difficult to share details internally until the campaign is close to going live.
- Marketing has its own unique focus, and it’s easy for them to overlook the internal implications and time needed to engage employees.
- You must consider how marketing’s initiatives fit with internal communications’ priorities.
A few tips:
- Build relationships within the marketing team so you’re involved as early as possible. You probably already do this, but keep cultivating those connections.
- Stay focused. Be clear about whom the campaign affects most, and concentrate on that audience. It’s easy to fall into the “This affects the entire organization!” trap.
- Send updates to employees. Tell them marketing is developing a campaign, and explain the purpose behind it. Give employees a timeline, and let them know you’ll provide more details as necessary.
- Plan briefings with employees when the campaign goes live externally. Explain why the campaign is running, as well as employees’ role in it. Provide background on why the organization is taking the approach it is, and gather feedback on how employees want to support it.
- Reinforce the behaviors needed to live up to the campaign’s core messages. Bring these to life with scenarios and training.
- Reinterpret the campaign internally. Don’t simply roll out a few posters that ran externally and expect them to work. Capture the essence and spirit of the campaign, and make it relevant internally.
- Seize the moment. This is your opportunity to demonstrate how internal communications adds value. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
Implement the actions above, and the benefits could be significant. Broader benefits of marketing and internal communications’ collaboration include:
1. Your organization will speak with one voice.
Reputation begins inside your organization. Employees represent the company on social media, so it’s essential to keep your messaging consistent both inside the organization and out.
Employees are brand ambassadors. They’re the most powerful way to share a consistent story with customers. Collaborate with marketing to agree on core messages and build internal advocates, because if your employees don’t buy into the campaign, neither will your customers.
Employees have to be involved in your story. They should live and breathe it-not just be on the receiving end of yet another message telling them to “get behind the business.”
2. Your organization will show it’s smart with internal skills and resources.
Internal communications has a lot to offer marketing, and vice versa. Smart organizations encourage knowledge sharing and the cross-fertilization of ideas.
Internal communicators have many skills—copywriting, creativity, content curation and management, event planning, and the list goes on. It’s an efficient use of time and resources to maintain strong connections with departments that share similar skills—marketing, for instance.
3. Internal support extends marketing’s reach.
A brilliant way to show you trust your employees is to enlist their support rather than forcing them to rely on external marketing channels.
Involve them from the beginning. Your internal advocates should be well placed to support the campaign through social media and word of mouth. This will demonstrate confidence, cohesion and consistency—from the inside out.
Wherever your internal communications department lives, continue to cultivate relationships with marketing and all other departments to ensure you’re involved in the planning and integration of business objectives. After all, the best relationships thrive on strong communication, mutual respect and teamwork.