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Internal Comms & External Marketing - The Perfect Partnership?


An internal comms function needs an eye on all corners of an organisation.

Supporting every function – from IT to R&D, HR to finance, connecting with employees and ensuring that everyone in the organisation is aware of the key issues and successes that affect them.

Specifically, when internal comms and external marketing conspire, they’re a remarkably powerful pair. Sadly, all too often, they’re like estranged family members, sharing the occasional conversation at milestone moments. Why is this? Too busy? Too many conflicting priorities? 

It’s frustrating when opportunities are missed to create something special inside the business and connect the dots with customers and consumers.

It’s an all too common story. And here’s another…

A marketing team went on a journey to completely reposition the organisation’s brand, creating an all singing, all dancing integrated external campaign around this moment. It sounds incredibly exciting but they only saw fit to mention it to internal comms two weeks before launch day. The repositioned brand was built around amazing customer service, the personal touch from its employees. But had anyone engaged the customer services team with these messages specifically? Not at all! So how can the external messages be reflected and lived in the customer experience if frontline teams aren’t aware of how they’re being portrayed? 

What a travesty!

The shape and structure of an internal comms department can differ hugely from one organisation to the next - often sitting within HR, sometimes housed within PR, even sharing a space with IT and occasionally existing as a standalone department. There are advantages to each of these setups which depend on a number of factors and a lot of debate exists around this topic - where should internal comms live? What’s the optimum structure? 

Embedded comms people within business functions can help massively to keep a finger on the pulse of the department that they live in as they are connected to central comms, both having an understanding of what’s needed from each other. 

Whether it’s a permanent arrangement or a close working relationship cultivated over time, when IC maintains strong and consistent communications with marketing, a powerful partnership can be formed. But it’s not always a bed of roses…

What are the challenges around connecting external marketing and internal comms? 

  • The external campaign will inevitably be signed off last minute so it’s difficult to share specifics internally until it’s very close to the campaign going live. 
  • Marketing has its own unique focus and it’s easy to overlook the internal implications and time needed to engage employees. 
  • From a comms perspective there’s already a lot to consider, how does this fit with other comms priorities and activity?

A few tips:

  • Build relationships across the functions so you’re involved as early as possible. You’re likely to be doing this already when time allows, but keep cultivating those connections with your internal customers.
  • Be focused. Be clear about who the campaign affects most and concentrate on them. It’s easy to be drawn into a ‘this affects the entire organisation’ conversation.
  • Early warnings for employees. Share the news that a campaign is being developed and the general concept behind it. Let employees know that more detail will be given and an idea of when that will happen.
  • Plan team briefings with employees for when the campaign goes live externally. Explain why the campaign is running and what is expected of employees. Give background to why the approach has been taken. Gather their feedback and input on how they feel they can support it.
  • Reinforce the behaviours needed to live up to the campaign’s core messages. Bring these to life with scenarios and training if required.
  • Reinterpret the campaign internally. Don’t just roll out a few posters of the external campaign and expect it to work. Capture the essence and spirit and make it relevant internally.
  • Seize the moment. These situations are opportunities to demonstrate how comms can add value. If marketing need convincing, now is a good opportunity. Build on what they have created and use their campaign assets. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship! 
Implement these actions and the benefits could be significant. Here are some broader valuable outcomes:

AN ORGANISATION THAT SPEAKS WITH ONE VOICE

Reputation begins inside your organisation with your people. With social media, the voice of an organisation can come directly from any one of its employees so being consistent across the board, inside and out is essential. 

Your employees are your brand ambassadors. They are the most powerful way of sharing a consistent story with customers. Collaborate with marketing to agree core messages and build internal advocates, supporting brand engagement because if your employees don’t buy in to the essence of your brand, it’s unlikely that your customers will either.

Employees need to be involved in the evolution of your story. It’s about them living and breathing it, not just being on the receiving end of yet another comms message telling them to ‘get behind the business!’

AN ORGANISATION THAT’S SMART WITH INTERNAL SKILLS AND RESOURCES

Relationships work both ways – IC has a huge amount to offer marketing and vice versa. And an organisation that encourages knowledge sharing and the cross-fertilisation of ideas is certainly a smart one.

The IC pro must be confident with so many skills – copywriting, content management and curation, devising creative campaigns, planning and organising events, advising on key strategies and structures… the list goes on and on. It’s a smart idea and an efficient use of time and resources to maintain strong connections with departments like marketing who share similar skillsets that require such creative flair. 

SUPPORT FROM INSIDE EXTENDS THE REACH OF EXTERNAL MARKETING

A brilliant way to show trust in your employees is to enlist their support in the campaign, rather than leaving them out in the cold and relying on external marketing channels. Involve them from the very beginning. Your internal advocates should be well placed to support them campaign through social media and word of mouth externally. This will demonstrate confidence, cohesion and consistency – from the inside out.

Wherever your IC department is housed, it’s about continuing to cultivate relations with marketing, external comms and all across the organisation, ensuring that you’re kept involved in the planning and integration of your IC strategy, all centred around the overall business objectives. After all, the best relationships thrive on strong communication, mutual respect and a big helping of teamwork! 

Feel free to share your challenges or tips on joining the external and internal comms dots on twitter @alivewithideas.


 


Tuesday, May 12, 2015


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