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A lesson in marketing – what IC pros can learn from their glamorous communication cousins


There’s a great quote that goes “Don’t envy what people have, emulate what they did to have it”. Never a truer word spoken, especially when it comes to internal communicators, who often find themselves in the shadow of their more glamorous marketing colleagues. So, rather than covet their bigger budgets, should we be uncovering the secrets of their success? 

That’s not to say we’re not doing a brilliant job, but it can’t have escaped most IC pro’s attention that marketing teams have bigger budgets, they’re involved at the very beginning of new initiatives and you don’t often see them having to explain for the umpteenth time, what exactly it is that they do. So, let’s take a closer look at our communication cousins to see what we can learn…  

Have a head for figures

In our industry the words ‘measurement’ and ‘holy grail’ are becoming synonymous with one another. But that’s set to change as the lines between internal and external begin to blur. 

Marketing have always had the advantage of being able to link their work to increased business, sales and profits. And now internal comms can too. With the rise of social media, employees have a voice for the first time and many are using it to share with the world exactly what it’s like to work in their companies, and businesses are sitting up and taking notice. 

Not only does this (hopefully) mean more investment in internal communication, but it also provides more meaningful measurement. As employees become ambassadors for organisations, we will be able to measure the impact of our internal communications by correlating them to external initiatives where employees have repeated, shared or acted upon our messaging. Ultimately, we will be able to demonstrate the value we add to the business. 

Obviously, what we do is about far more than increasing profits, but by being able to prove that, will help us secure budgets, influencers and respect that will help us engage with employees across the business far more effectively. 

Shout a little louder

The nature of what we do often sees us stay behind the scenes and make others look good, especially as we try to empower others to take responsibility for communication. You could argue that as the lines between internal and external begin to blur, marketing will also become less about big bang campaigns and more about employee advocacy. But right now, marketing teams are very good at doing their own PR in a way that we’re not. 

Not only do we not shout loud enough about our successes, but we don’t often communicate about how we communicate. So, it is any surprise that people then don’t understand quite what it is we do?

It’s time to take our own advice and set an example of what good communication looks like. Tell people what your remit is, what you’re working on, and the rhythm of communication in the business. And make yourself visible, get out and talk to people, hot desk so you sit with a different team every week, write a regular blog about the comms team. Practise what you preach. 

Raise the bar

Credibility is absolutely essential to any profession, and marketing may have the edge on internal communicators due to their commitment to accreditation and professional development. Marketing degrees and diplomas are common place, positioning them as a respected profession that holds itself to a high standard. 

And while I don’t believe that you need to be degree educated to be a good communicator, being able to demonstrate that you have industry-recognised knowledge, skills and experience, is extremely powerful. 

Internal communications are catching up with some fantastic qualifications and professional development programmes available, so at your next PDP why not consider how this would help you develop further as a practitioner and what it would say to the wider world about our industry if we all held ourselves to the same standard.

Embrace failure

It’s easy to accuse marketing of having style over substance, but when it comes to making an impact, they are the masters. And they have to be. It’s a crowded marketplace where it’s easy to get lost in the noise, but it’s also a very public arena where there’s a lot to lose. With boldness and creativity comes the potential for failure. 

If we want to encourage employees to share learnings and experiences to provide a better service for clients and customers, we need to set the example.
In comparison, internal communications campaigns are often more conservative, whether that’s due to budget restrictions, or a stronger focus on strategy and messaging. However, creativity doesn’t have to be expensive and it can help convey your important messages more effectively – as long as you aren’t afraid to fail. 

After all, isn’t experience just another word for failure?

Consider your content

Have you noticed that blogs and insights shared by organisations online are increasingly in the form of lists (13 top tips…), tell personal stories, and encourage comments and discussion? Marketing teams have understood how their audiences receive information in their personal lives and reflect it in their marketing content. 

While this approach may not work for all audiences, it’s always worth reviewing your approach to internal content and seeing if there are opportunities to convey messages in more engaging ways. Investing time in creating a content strategy where you’re clear on the types of content you’ll communicate, where and why, and what style they’ll be in. Be creative with your headlines, break content into digestible chunks using sub headings, keep it short, be authentic, tell stories and make sure you answer the question ‘what’s in it for me’.


While there is plenty to emulate, let’s not forget that there’s a lot marketing can learn from us too. And following an eventful 2016, I predict 2017 to continue to challenge us in interesting ways that will see internal communications and marketing working closer together. Pooling our knowledge and experience can only make us stronger and ready to face the future whatever it may bring.

By Helen Deverell for Alive
Saturday, January 14, 2017


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