It’s easy to see the importance of external communications in creating a potential client’s first impression; however, internal communications are just as important. Consistent and effective internal communication builds a highly organized and driven workforce and creates internal brand champions by connecting your employees to the brand they represent. Here are four ways you can get started perfecting your internal communications.
1. Define Your Purpose and Choose Your Audience
Every communication should be well thought out and purposeful. Understanding your audience and defining the purpose of your communication are the first steps in crafting an appropriate message. Once you define the purpose of your communication, you can then craft the message appropriately based on your audience. Is it a formal communication going out to management or chief executives, or a light-hearted communication between employees? And remember—nothing electronic is truly private, and once you put it out there, it never goes away.
Having so many channels available means a clear message is very important. Anticipate questions and answer them up front in your original message to avoid miscommunication. First tell your audience what they need to know—and then tell them why. Giving your audience a reason to care about your message will increase the likelihood it will be read and remembered. Meaningful, timely content that clearly addresses a specific need is the most effective.
Even for the same audience, different messages will use different language and tones. For example, HR communicates employee-centered information in a different tone than accounting would send financial information. Think about your audience and your content, and choose the appropriate vocabulary, degree of formality, and overall tone for your message.
2. Choose the Best Channel
There are many channels to choose from, including email, hard copy, phone, and in-person. With the availability of so many communication channels, make sure your message is not only clear and appropriate for the audience, but also that it is appropriate for the channel. Email is the most frequently used channel, but emails can get lost in the clutter of a busy inbox. Give them a concise, attention-grabbing subject line, and give the most important information within the first paragraph. Reinforce emails by posting flyers or posters in high-traffic areas like the break room.
Paper is the most formal channel and is always used for collateral that is meant to last, such as employee handbooks. Job offers, promotions, and annual reviews should also be communicated via hard copy (and preferably signed and dated). Many employees will prefer an emailed copy as well.
If you need an immediate answer, have a simple question, or just need an update, give the person a call, or better yet, ask in person. Face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) communication reinforces personal connections and naturally leads to discussion of other topics. Back up any important information gathered via phone or in person with an email.
3. Communicate with Corporate Values in Mind
As an extension of your brand and your company’s voice, the look and feel of your internal communications should express a consistent point of view and resonate with employees. The way you communicate with your employees should also reflect your corporate values.
Corporate content is an oft-forgotten piece of internal communication, and one of the most important. It includes things like your employee handbook, mission statements, company policies, and newsletter. Your corporate content communicates who you are and what is important to you, and is an important extension of your brand—so don’t forget to keep the look and feel consistent across all channels. Create templates for variable items like letterhead and employee forms, and follow brand guidelines regarding your logo and color palette. With a simple, consistent style and tone, you won’t need to go crazy with colors, fonts and animation to get your employees’ attention.
Think about the purpose of each piece and craft it accordingly. For example, a mission statement should be short and concise, using as few words as possible; but your handbook can contain as much information as you like, and you can easily change the tone from section to section by including tips and tricks and funny or informative articles, such as break room or cubicle etiquette. And a company newsletter can increase communication and knowledge-sharing among departments. Long-term success is directly related to employees sharing in the company culture.
4. Don’t Forget the Basics
Just because clients generally don’t see internal communications, this doesn’t mean they can be sloppy! They should be well-written, with not too much or too little information. Be sure to include all necessary information to avoid confusion and miscommunication. Use appropriate grammar and punctuation just as you would for a client-facing message. Make sure internal content is easy to read and understand for all levels of employees. Then, read it twice—and have a colleague read it as well.
Done right, internal communications will not only serve to distribute important information, but will also reinforce your company values, help to build your brand, and create employees who are brand champions.