HawkPartners works with many Fortune 100 companies to refine their external-facing customer communications, but we also partner with some of those same companies to optimize their internal messaging. Many successful businesses would say that “our people are our most important asset,” and the strongest among them apply similar best practices to communications regardless of the audience. After all, people are people, whether they’re your customers or your colleagues.
If you haven’t recently evaluated your internal communications, here are a few principles we keep in mind when advising our clients:
Keep it simple
We know from myriad external communications testing initiatives that metaphors often fall flat and complex terms need to be defined, particularly when consumers’ attention is being pulled in a million directions at once. Along those lines, employees are often juggling many tasks in addition to following and absorbing internal communications – and these internal messages may often be set aside in favor of more pressing needs. Can you think of a time you received an internal “PLEASE READ” email and barely gave it a glance?
Granted, you may not be able to “test” internal communications with “a representative sample of your audience” prior to “launch.” But, at least before you send out the latest internal email or note, pause to think: what is the one thing I need my colleagues to understand about this issue? How obvious is that point? Am I providing too much (or too little) background in support? And how will this key point likely be received?
Consider your audience’s needs
When we think about the impact of external messaging for our clients we often ask, “does the benefit we’re promoting meet a key need that is currently unmet?” If we turn that principle inwards, a certain idea or message may feel crucial to senior leadership, but to what extent does it resonate with others within the company?
If you are able, float the message with different cohorts of your employees or colleagues in conversation to gauge reactions. If others do not readily see the value of the idea in the same way, then steps need to be taken to ensure the framing and “whys” behind the idea are communicated along with the message itself.
Evolve messaging over time to support change
We often see markets shift over time thanks to unbranded campaigns or gradual messaging on an attribute or benefit that was previously undervalued. Similarly, we can’t expect employees to immediately jump on board with a new corporate operating principle just because we say so. Building change and altering habits takes time and must be fostered by incremental messaging and a longer-range vision of where things are going. Using this approach in internal communications has the added benefit of bringing colleagues or employees on-board early and helping them to feel like a part of the process, ultimately generating more buy-in so that when the new CRM software roll out is complete (for instance), all are engaged in putting it to work.
Utilize multiple channels
In only the rarest of cases would you launch your latest product or communicate about updates to your rewards program via just one channel. Similarly, a couple of emails from your VP of Sales about that new CRM system is not enough. Like customers, internal audiences have channel preferences and need to hear key messages repeated for them to stick. Reinforcing messages across multiple internal channels (email, all-hands calls, in-person meetings, digital platforms like Slack, and others) ensures that as many colleagues as possible receive the message.
If you have ever paused to wonder how to best to put an internal change in place or if you have received an internal update that didn’t quite make sense, then it may be time to focus more attention on the four key principles above to beef up your internal communications.