Why HR and marketing should join forces for powerful internal communicationPop quiz: When are your employees not just employees?
Answer: When they’re also powerful advocates for your company brand.
It’s no riddle; it’s the opportunity HR professionals and executives must seize, or else risk losing a large swath of stakeholders—people who can actively (and passionately) be spreading the good message about your business.
Between strategic planning sessions and customer satisfaction surveys, it’s easy to focus the majority of your efforts on two of your three primary audiences: customers and potential customers. After all, that’s who’s buying your product or service and keeping the lights on. But don’t forget the third (and arguably the most important) group: your internal audience.
Right now, we’re not doing so well with them: A recent Gallup poll reports that only 27 percent of employees in the U.S. believe in their company’s values. That’s a huge opportunity! When you approach internal communications with the same attention and creativity as external efforts – and see it as an untapped branding opportunity – you'll give employees a reason to care about your company. You’ll ultimately supply them with the tools to serve as an effective messenger of your brand promise.
Internal Communication vs. Employee Communication
First, let’s define what internal communication includes. You may be inclined to confuse it with more basic forms of employee communication, which is often limited, referring to only the time-sensitive and important information employees need—benefits, employment policies, hiring information, career planning, etc.
A fully comprehensive internal communications strategy, on the other hand, goes further. It’s designed to spread the same brand messaging you’re using externally to your internal audience—which includes not only your employees but also other internal constituents, such as board members, volunteers, etc. That communication is broader and can include messages that encapsulate your values, purpose and overall philosophy. These are the types of communication that paint a larger brand picture in the minds of your employees.
As Michael Collins, managing director and CMO at CFA Institute, tells Forbes, it’s imperative these groups are not neglected in the wake of external efforts:
“Brilliant external branding with sophisticated messaging and well-executed reach can easily become a fragile exoskeleton if internal audiences are operating in silos with little understanding and knowledge of or appreciation for what is going on holistically.”
HR Needs To Team Up With Marketing
If you’re like most HR professionals, you’re likely already wearing many hats and feeling more overwhelmed than the average joe. But there’s no getting around it: In today’s modern workplace, effective human resource management also requires a lot of marketing.
This is best done when there’s a strong alignment between the HR department and the marketing and corporate communications team. By coordinating efforts, when appropriate, each department will develop a broader perspective of how the brand is communicated and how it’s being received. It will also help HR executives learn how to “think” like a marketing pro, says Katharine Mobley, global chief marketing officer for First Advantage, in a recent SHRM blog:
“HR has evolved so much in the past decade, and, now, much of the work of the HR function includes getting that external buy-in, whether it’s from current employees, potential employees or just the community at large. HR practitioners are leveraging tools from the marketing toolkit to make their jobs easier and more effective.”
If you’re able to do that – to create messaging that not only delivers the necessary HR information but also the greater brand story – you’ll begin to build an employee base who can truly speak in your company’s voice. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself with an army of advocates that’s not only strengthening your brand in the community as a whole but also with potential candidates.
And when that happens, you’ll begin to see your employees as much more than just mere employees.
Jordan Warzecha is CEO and Co-Founder of backstitch, an employee communications platform designed to build a connection between your employees and the company—to transform a patchwork of people into a successful team. How are you building brand advocates with your internal audiences? Share your thoughts on LinkedIn, Facebook or on Twitter @backstitch.