Internal communication is an important piece of an organization’s brand reputation and, in the past few years, it has undergone a shift from being an HR function to becoming a crucial component of strategic communications.
Here at AHA, we develop communications plans for clients on a regular basis. During this process, one of the first questions we ask is about the organization’s current approach to internal communications – and how the external communications will be supported and reflected internally. This often results in an interesting discussion about employee engagement, how to best communicate with internal stakeholders, and the task of developing an internal communications plan in collaboration with both the communication and HR departments.
Internal communication provides an excellent opportunity for the senior executive or leadership team to move away from “top-down communication” and create channels that are open, direct, authentic, two-way and more personal. It also provides the opportunity for two-way dialogue – an important piece for an organization that wants to attract the best and brightest in their industry. Creating an opportunity for employee feedback, participation and involvement helps to promote engagement. When staff is engaged, they are more productive, morale is higher, and the organization is seen as a good place to work – which attracts talented professionals.
A solid internal communications plan also provides employees with the ability to tell the organization’s story. There are no better ambassadors for an organization than its employees, when they understand and believe in the brand story. No advertising or PR campaign will be effective if what is being said externally is not supported internally. Encouraging employee involvement in a range of internal and external communications initiatives helps to tell the brand story in an authentic way. The people who come to work each day can be exceptional assets in building and maintaining a good culture, in maintaining a positive brand reputation, and in communicating the organization’s values to each person they come in contact with during their workday.
In developing an internal communications plan, it is important to create a consistent approach – random or ad hoc communication doesn’t work. The communications efforts need to be planned out and delivered on a regular basis. The objective of the plan has to be clearly defined. If employees are asked to participate, expectations and reasons why the outreach is being done need to be clearly communicated. Two-way dialogue, including negative feedback, has to be encouraged and the feedback has to be acknowledged and respected. Staff members need to know that they are being heard – especially if your organization has challenges.
Strategic internal communication does take time and effort to plan and to implement, but the results can provide exceptional return-on-investment. Building relationships internally and ensuring the employees are informed, engaged and are provided opportunities to authentically participate in developing and sharing your brand story creates a strong workforce. It increases productivity, attracts good employees, improves morale, and develops a positive work culture – all of which support your organizational objectives. Should an issue or crisis happen to your organization, you have created credibility among your staff, which results in their support during a challenge. By focusing on internal relationships, you increase trust – one of the most valuable assets an organization has.