5 Ways to Make Your Internal Communications Program Successful
By: Nikki Little
When we talk with companies about helping them with communications programs, they’re often focused on external communications (media relations, social media, e-newsletters, etc.). But one thing we always stress is the importance of not ignoring internal communications—particularly because it’s critical to empower employees to serve as company brand ambassadors.
As noted in this post on Brandwatch’s website: Internal communications have grown significantly since the days of simple staff emails and newsletters. Instant messaging, support forums and Intranets are now embedded in most organizations and represent a modern way for different departments, locations and businesses to connect.
So, how do you get started if you’re revamping a current program or building an internal communications program from the ground up? I’ve been working with a client to build a better internal communications program that will result in more employees using their internal platform. Whether you’re a company that has a budget for an internal collaboration tool, or a company looking to implement a program on a smaller scale, these 5 ideas can apply across the board.
Ask your employees for feedback
The very first thing we did with our client was sent a survey to employees. In this instance, the company was switching from one internal collaboration tool to another. The former tool had a low adoption and engagement rate, and my client contact expressed how frustrated employees were with the functionality of the tool. Rather than guessing how we could improve the program with the new tool, we asked employees for their input. The feedback was astronomically essential for us to build the strategy for the new internal communications tool launch. It guided our entire program.
If you’re starting from scratch, I still highly recommend surveying employees to find out which elements of an internal communications program or collaboration tool would be of most value to them. Blindly guessing or assuming may cause your program to sink – wasting your time, efforts and dollars!
No surprise here, right? Just as every external communications program should have goals, the same applies for internal communications programs. With our client, we clearly defined our 2015 goals (with corresponding objectives) in order to properly measure success. Every tactic we recommend and implement is directly tied to a goal.
Get leadership involved from day one
This was a huge piece of feedback we received when we sent out our client survey. Employees were disappointed in the lack of involvement from leadership with the former internal collaboration tool, and they wanted to see an improvement with the new tool before they would fully adopt it. We all know how difficult it is to work around leadership’s busy schedules, so what we did was create opportunities to get leaders involved without requiring too much of their time. The easier you can make it for them to participate, the more likely it will be that they’ll be open to connecting and communicating with employees through your internal communications program.
Think about it – if you’re trying to motivate employees to share ideas on how to improve something related to the business, but those who make the decisions aren’t listening or acting on the feedback, then why the heck would employees waste their time giving that feedback? Leaders must commit to showing employees their voices are heard and things are happening to act upon their suggestions.
Make it fun for employees
Once you get feedback from employees on what they want out of an internal communications program, you’ll likely hear from a few who say something along the lines of, “I don’t have time for this.” But if you find ways to make it fun, you have a better chance of changing their minds.
With our client, we’re working on adding a gamification component where employees will earn points for various actions they take using the internal communications tool. Once they reach different levels, they will “unlock” various prizes. A mobile app for the internal tool just launched, so rather than simply sending a note and saying “yay, we have a mobile app!”, we’re putting together a plan for a virtual party with prizes to inform employees about the app and get them pumped up about using it.
Keep it simple, but inject some creativity and fun into your program to get employees excited about participating.
Show examples of success
It’s always helpful when you can take what’s worked for others and replicate that for your own efforts. We’re working on interviewing employees who have found success using the new internal communications tool to inspire and motivate others.
Often times, we don’t know what we don’t know. We too easily assume something won’t work for us or isn’t a fit, simply because we can’t grasp exactly how it can be of value to us. Education inspires action, so it’s important to give real examples. It’s easy for those managing the internal communications program to talk about why it’s so great, but you’ll likely reach employees on a whole different level if they hear from peers who are doing great things thanks to this program.
If you’ve launched an internal communications program and have other suggestions on how to make it successful, let us know in the comments!