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How to Use Marketing Best Practices to Engage Your Employees

Doug HohenerDoug Hohener·

I’ve been thinking lately about the similarities between trying to engage consumers and employees. Traditionally we have always separated internal communications from marketing, as the audiences are different, but when you get right down to it, whether internal or external, an audience is an audience – it is the message and medium that dictate the real engagement.

There are several ways internal communicators can learn from marketing best practices. At my agency, it is so imperative to understand our client’s audience, what they value and how to better reach and engage them with content that is relevant to them. Without a doubt these goals are equally shared with your internal communications.

I invite you to follow my ideas outlined below if you are looking for tips on how to stop your employees from tuning out your company communications.

Know your baseline

Before starting your communications campaign, it’s important to know what your employees already know and how engaged they are. The principles you can apply to your employees are the same I apply to consumers: If we don’t understand what’s stopping them from paying attention to your existing communications, how can we expect them to listen to future communications?

I’d like to point out that Poppulo has several practical guides and workbooks written by leading measurement experts on internal communication measurement that are absolutely worth a read. They provide some insightful testing methods and tips that can help out even the most experienced communicator.

At CreativeWorks Marketing research is so a focus of what we do so much so we’ve made market research the first step in our 5-Step Marketing Process.

A number of years ago, I worked with a large company that is heavily involved in the occupational health and safety industry to improve their internal safety culture. What I did for them was set up a video booth for employees to go in and answer a few questions about workplace safety.

This proved to be more effective than sending a survey via email to gauge their current knowledge, so if getting your employees to open your emails is an area your company is currently struggling with, think outside the box (and inside a booth!).

Emphasize why it’s important

Rather than dictating announcements and rules, you are likely to have more success if your employees can relate to them. They may realize that they “should” know the information, but what incentive do they have other than obligation? Few people enjoy being told what to do; they need to be persuaded, which is exactly what marketing does.

If your company is implementing important changes to its workplace safety policies, you can accompany the formal announcement with videos and images showing what’s also important to staff – their personal lives.

Being able to go home at the end of the day to see family is an element of work/life balance that hits the emotional side of staff. For general employee engagement and creating a positive work environment, you can try connecting your staff to your messaging by drawing on their common experiences.

For example, when I was hired by real estate company Minto to engage their cleaning staff, I immersed the communications campaign in Filipino culture because the majority of the staff were from the Philippines.  Whether it was certain cultural events or Filipino food, it always had some connection back to the community.

Have fun

A great way to get employees engaged with company culture is to constantly make it fun and interactive. You can set up a virtual reality system at one of your events, even if it isn’t directly related to the reasoning for the event. At least it will make employees curious enough to show up, and then you’ve increased your attendance.

I also find that contests are an effective way to get employees interested. Consider how RSVPing to a workshop could be counted as one entry into a draw, actually attending the workshop could be another entry, and completing a survey at the end of the workshop could be another, all while capturing the participation you need.

Workplace contests and events make perfect social media posts. You can share pictures of contest winners to get employees excited for the next contest, and employees (including senior leaders!) and clients alike enjoy seeing everyone having fun at company events. You can even encourage your staff to post their own work-appropriate photos on social media and tag your company’s corporate accounts.

Involve your employees

Another way to make it fun for your employees to participate in workplace happenings is to involve them in the actual communications campaigns. Invite them to pose for social media photos and feature them in company culture videos.

One marketing tactic I used with Minto was to spotlight employees in campaign posters. When employees see coworkers on a poster in the subway or other public places, they take notice and want to know more about what’s happening at work.

Getting senior leaders involved can also go a long way in showing employees how important certain communications are to the company. Particularly critical announcements may want to come from an executive rather than your communications team since emails from higher-ups are less likely to be ignored.

More specifically, one method we have incorporated in the past is through a video clip version of the important message attached to the email, which brings the leader forward and connects them to staff in a personable way.

Be careful with creativity

As much as a creative subject line, image, or video might catch the attention of your employees, you still need to ensure that your communication is clear. Clever wording is wasted if your employees walk away with a confusing or wrong message.

To ensure your messaging stays on track, I suggest including two or three words in every aspect of your campaign that are clearly connected to the subject you want to communicate. Repetition is key in any communications campaign, and the more your employees see these words, the more likely it is that they’ll remember the message. However, using a couple of the same words doesn’t mean using the exact same sentence everywhere. It’s important to switch up the phrasing a little for each media because everyone relates to certain phrasings differently.    

Measure the campaign’s progress

Measurement is the only way you can see quantifiable results of any marketing campaign, and the same goes for internal communications. Some tactics you can measure with little effort, like counting how many people attend an event or checking a program to see the open rate of an email, but employee surveys are great measurement tools to track engagement. I recommend surveying employees before the start of the campaign and at least every six months after that.

Once you start getting each piece of the campaign in place, your staff will start opening your newsletters more often. Survey them to gauge interest in topics that are valued for upcoming lunch ‘n learns, and you’ll start to see the metrics grow along the way.

Consumers and employees, just like anyone, want their opinions heard, and in my experience, showing the organization is listening and responding keeps the communication flowing.

I encourage you to ask your marketing department or contact a professional marketing agency on how to marketing best practices to engage your employees.


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