Why internal marketing is as important as external
Editorial

Why internal marketing is as important as external

Brands are increasingly seeing the importance of internal communications, to reinforce values and create a sense of belonging for employees. What are the most effective strategies for marketers who are tasked with consolidating and disseminating the brand message?

“All businesses need advocates to thrive,” says Neil Hancock, head of strategy and B2B at sales performance agency Silverbean. “And the best ones are your colleagues, managers, suppliers and partners.”

In today’s challenging business environment, keeping everyone on board is critical. In the same way you market yourself to the outside world, you need to create an ongoing dialogue with internal customers.

And that, Hancock points out, means explaining to individuals at every level why the company mission matters to them. “Why should your delivery driver care about your values? How will it help make their job easier?”

Use the platforms you have available

Amid the dense snowstorm of content and communications – and shortening attention spans – constant reminders are required, Hancock adds. “Create a marketing plan to get the message out. Use different platforms to make sure your internal audience is involved in the conversation; they can’t believe in the vision if they don’t feel a part of it.”

Measuring the effectiveness of your efforts is key, Hancock says. “Not everything you implement will be successful, so use reports to test and evolve your plan in order to improve. And don’t assume the same marketing activity will be as effective in a year’s time. Be prepared to adapt. Give colleagues ownership so they identify with it and drive it forward.”

According to Jodie Williams, co-founder and director of The Marketing Pod, a good brand is delivered from the inside out. “Put simply, your staff will make or break your brand. If there’s a disconnect between an organisation’s promises and what it delivers, the entire brand is undermined.

Communicate clearly and often

“It’s important that staff understand why change is happening, before being told how it affects them. Marketers must engage staff from the beginning – defining a brand’s aspirations should come from the whole business, not the boardroom alone. Ensuring all areas are represented early on provides a more rounded view, helping to identify gaps between reality and aspiration.”

Also crucial, adds Williams, is being clear about the brand’s values and vision. “An engaged employee will know where the business is heading, and why. Reinforce with an internal launch – bring the brand to life with training materials, office branding, desk drops, the intranet and other internal publications.”

It’s really important to come up with a clear message. Make it easy to say, remember, and understand, and find ways to keep pushing it. Peter Hall, head of marketing at tech firm WM Reply believes this becomes much easier if companies reinforce messaging from the beginning. “Work with HR and set expectations with new employees,” he says. “Include your values in the job description, interview process and induction.”

Having new recruits onside from the start makes for a happier, more cohesive team, which directly translates to the work they deliver to clients and their willingness to support marketing campaigns. As such, teams working with customers will act as a barometer to how your values are communicated and understood.

Appoint ‘Champions’

This can be helped by appointing ‘champions’, to live the brand values and embed them throughout the company. These individuals are typically drawn from various departments, and work to keep people updated on past, present and future marketing campaigns. Peter Hall says that involving people from the start is key to this: “What successes did we have last week? Are we ranking better in Google? Is that driving more enquiries? Strive to make people feel part of things by getting them involved.”

That matters, says Aimee Muirhead, client partnerships director at Narrative Communications, because “your internal team are one of the most powerful assets, as well as the cruellest ‘diminishers’ of your business. If people who work for you recommend the product or services, you already have a strong team of brand ambassadors to help position and grow your business.

“The opportunity to take part in decisions not only helps employees feel valued, but also gives business leaders the chance to hear what they think.” And yet, says Muirhead, a company mission is often decided by the senior team without some employees knowing what that is, or why it’s important.

Engage face-to-face

Digital updates are all very well, but Muirhead believes nothing beats face-to-face workshops, with business leaders meeting employees. “Understanding the reasons behind the company mission will help staff back the company and drive the mission forward.

“They’ll provide consistent, two-way communication, meaning you can trial or pitch your ideas to them before disseminating them. But it’s important to embrace an honest and open culture – it’s no use testing ideas on someone who won’t give constructive criticism. Together, you have the opportunity to anticipate trends/feelings/changes in the market, before they bite you.”

What’s good for in-house applies to the wider world, Muirhead adds. “Customers want to feel valued, and there’s no better way to do that than by simply talking to them, whether via email marketing, social media or in-store. Transparent, two-way communication should allow them to share concerns and compliments quickly and easily.”

Huw Morgan, director of internal communications practice at Good Relations, added: "Your employees are arguably your most powerful brand ambassadors and need to understand their role in turning your brand’s aspirations into reality. To build brand understanding and belief with employees, you should balance between big-bang creative campaigns and a regular reinforcement of your values.  

A true test of your brand is the way your front-line employees interact with your customers, so it's essential to plan a regular drumbeat of initiatives that recognise the way your people bring your brand strategy and values to life." 

In essence, by using tools, marketers can deploy a communications plan internally that will keep the workforce informed, and also engender a sense of belonging. Treating employees like you would your external customers will create a culture of feedback, which should be captured and used to further improve satisfaction – and overall performance.

Attend our member-only webinar to find out how to build an integrated internal communications strategy. Alternatively, learn how to maximise your organisation’s performance with an effective internal communications system.

Andrew Mourant

CIM comment

"Internal communications is becoming a cross-function role. As HR moves away from transactional roles, it is starting to become embedded in internal communications and this is definitely what will continue in the future."

Sarah Lee-Boone, associate director of people and organisational development

"Internal communications is about linking business to its staff members and taking them in the direction the business wants to go in.

In order to do this, connecting with employees is more important than ever. You need to able to listen to a wide range of people and understand what it is they are really saying and then develop messages that engage them both."

James Delves, head of PR and engagement

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