Creatively Corporate

4 Ways Internal Communicators Can Think Like a Marketer

4 Ways Internal Communicators Can Think Like a Marketer


Creativity – even at an average level – is an essential skill in marketing. You need to grab the attention of the audience… grab it and do that cool proverbial “glamour” thing, like in True Blood. But how important is it if you work in internal or corporate communications? I mean, you’re not selling anything to your audience…. or ARE you?

I worked for six years in email marketing, and it was a great outlet for letting my creativity come through, speaking in different voices and finding various “hooks” to engage the audience and ponder what I’d written. But it was also an opportunity for me to learn that understanding my audiences helped craft targeted messaging that addressed what they truly wanted and needed. After I joined internal communications, I found that a lot of the marketing principles could be integrated into employee communications. It was like a new discipline  ̶   internal marketing.

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool internal communicator regularly using a formal tone in your writing, fret not. Here are a few marketing principles to keep in mind as you create your next messaging masterpiece:

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First and Foremost: Get Familiar with Their Problems
Is your organization performing regular communication or engagement surveys? As most in our profession understand, regularly polling your audience is key to improving your message strategies. It’s important not only to pay attention to what communication channels employees prefer, but what is keeping them engaged (or disengaged).

Think of the internal population as your customers; you’re trying to understand what is most important to them and what problems they face within your company. Your goal is to always improve your service and solve the problems that keep them from being fully engaged.

So keep polling; not just annually or semi-annually. Post regular surveys on internal channels to help ensure you stay familiar with the issues and concerns your audience faces. It will make your internal marketing job easier in the long run to craft messages that add value.

Demonstrate Problem Solving
The reason corporate communication exist is to solve problems… not just for executives who need to disseminate information and organizational updates, but for the employees, as well.

If you’ve been unfortunate enough to deal with a clearly disengaged population, you know that the cause of that apathy is often a lack of communication. They want to know what’s going on. When all they have is the rumor mill to address their insecurities about the state of the organization and their jobs, bad things happen. You provide certainty; you’re the answer man or woman. Even if you’re sugar-coating the message and putting a positive spin on bad news, you’re giving them something that takes away uncertainty, and that goes a long way from turning disgruntled associates into focused individuals.

Extol the Benefits to Your Audience
No matter what you’re writing about  ̶  an executive appointment, a budget cut, a reorganization, etc. ̶  you have to sell it to employees. Make them understand why it benefits them. This is when you need to find your “hook”… your selling point. What’s the reader going to see as the main benefit to them? This is tricky with negative topics, but your mindset should always focus on providing value.

Let’s take the example of a budget cut… or even a layoff. Harsh as it might seem, you need to convince your audience that cutting back or letting their colleagues go helps the company, and thus, them in the long run. Don’t think of it as a formal corporate “this is the way it is, and if you don’t like it, tough” kind of message. Instead, approach it as positively as possible.

Remember the Call to Action
In general, all advertisements have a call to action (CTA). Most of the time, you’ll be asked to call a phone number or go to a webpage for “more information.” The same should apply to your internal communications.

Always leave them with something to do  ̶  something from which they can benefit. Even if it’s something as simple as a fire drill scheduled, for instance, they need to be aware so they can adjust their schedules. After all, no one wants to be in the middle of a meeting and be interrupted by a ten-minute fire drill. In this case, tell them to adjust their schedule accordingly so they can plan around the drill.

Profiles and success stories are not only popular with an internal audience, they subtly encourage behaviors that allow employees (like the one profiled) to produce positive outcomes for him/herself and for the organization. The CTA here isn’t blatant, but it demonstrates to the readers how they can be someone who takes ownership and helps move the company forward. Close these pieces by asking what the reader can do to “live the mission” of the organization.

What Ways Have You Marketed to Your Internal Audience?
In future posts, I’ll get more into internal marketing  ̶  strategies, tactics, etc. But right now, let’s hear about what kind of creative ways you’ve tried to “sell” benefits to your employees or encourage them to take a particular CTA. Or talk about what you’ve done to regularly poll your audience. Let me know about it in the Comment section.

Word. Peace out!


2 thoughts on “4 Ways Internal Communicators Can Think Like a Marketer

  1. Regina Biunno

    Good points, Jon. The bottom line for each involves addressing the “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) factor. And if you’re going for the marketing angle, I’d suggest taking it a step further by striving to turn your employees into brand ambassadors. Effective internal communications not only has the power to address employees’ needs but also keep them engaged in their work and their organization. By building brand ambassadors, you get a double whammy — external advocates who can promote a company’s products and recruitment efforts and internal advocates who can help build the corporate culture and support retention.

    1. Jon Reed Post author

      Couldn’t agree more Regina! Employees definitely feel a lot more engaged when they feel like they actually “own” a part of the organization – their efforts equal tangible successes. It’s empowerment, and it’s something that’s lacking, unfortunately, in many companies. Communicators have a lot of power to turn around the culture of engagement.

      I’ll have to do a blog about the idea of brand ambassadorship (is that a word?), and how to increase that mindset in more employees. Thank you for that feedback!

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