Skip to main content

Blog

Internal Comms & External Marketing – The Perfect Partnership?

< Blog home

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.

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“So glad that we chose Alive to create our new website. As well as taking the time to get the visual side of our requirement right, they worked with us to understand us, our business and our clients and reflect this across the site. We loved their flexible approach, which, coupled with the right level of challenge has replaced our old, clunky site with one we can be proud of. ”

Victoria Ford — Perago

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“Love it. I will pass to the boss, but I think it's awesome.”

Matt Fletcher — Met Police

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“Boom!
Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“I have worked with Alive with Ideas for many years now and they are by far the best Ideas and design company I have ever worked with (I’d even go as far as to say the best company of any sort that I’ve ever worked with). They are an incredibly talented and creative team, who are normal human beings, completely grounded, totally down to earth, approachable, friendly and an overall joy to work with.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“We worked with Alive on our new website and branding project. They wowed us during the pitch and they didn’t stop “wowing” us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo