The Poor Relation – Internal Communications vs External Marketing

Author – Margaret Oscar Internal Comms & Culture Consultant

Why is it that internal communications is so often external communication’s poor relation – the place where half-baked creativity goes to die? Surely, internal communications is absolutely key to employee engagement so it seems like madness that in an age where a single employee’s behaviour can bring a company to its knees, we still seem to save the ‘good stuff’ for external audiences.

There is so much wrong with this. Firstly, all audiences are ultimately consumers, so why do we feel they deserve less when we are communicating to their work selves? It’s a little insulting to them, and naive of us, to think we do not need to work as hard to take them with us, just because they are on the payroll.

Secondly, employees are all potential advocates. We live in a time where we all care about the businesses behind the brands, and when employees actively advocate on their company’s behalf it resonates powerfully. Multiply that by the size of your workforce and they become a powerful communications channel in their own right.

Finally, these are the people who actually make your company what it is. Without them, you are nothing and no products or services get designed or created, built or marketed, or even sold. So, ensuring they are fully engaged in your business is important.

This is ever more important in the age of purpose. People want to work for companies that exist for a reason other than to just make money. They want to know why their employers exist, what they care about, where they have come from and where they are going. Bring them in on that and you will get their best selves.

But engagement is not about entertaining your people or making sure they look happy every day. Engagement is the relationship between an organisation and its employees; a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members to give their best each day. And an engaged employee is someone fully absorbed by, and enthusiastic about, their work. As a result, they take positive action to further an organisation’s reputation and interests, and you reap the benefits.

The power of an activated workforce not only affects the external perception of a business but its business performance. But today, the employee experience still is not seen as being relevant to the customer experience because the internal domino effect is not recognised.

Domino Effect: Employee experience impacts on the experience they create and sustain for customers; that in turn impacts on business success.

No-one finds it motivating to feel like a cog in a machine that is making more money than they can possibly conceive. It is however, motivating to feel like you work for a company that is ‘making a dent in the universe’, to quote Steve Jobs.

Employees should be front and centre. They should be where your communications and strategies start, not a passive afterthought. They should be swept up by a powerful purpose and seduced by world-class creative, designed just for them. They should be allowed to be everything they can be and for that they need to feel it with their hearts as well as their minds.

They need to feel they matter, they belong, they are respected and they are able to make contributions to the success of the business they work for.

Internal communications is not the poor relation of external communications, it is where the real value lies. And it is the businesses that are acting on this post-pandemic, that will rule the world.