Employee Comms

Why Internal Communication leaders need to think like marketers


 — September 7th, 2017

Why Internal Communication leaders need to think like marketers

Picture this: we have two internal communicators from the same company that need to get a message from the CEO sent out. The company has seen typical numbers in engagement for months and they’re competing to see who can really make a difference in consumption of the content.

Rob writes up a tactically killer email with concise bullets and a visually compelling look. Julie shoots a video doing backflips out of an airplane while on a donkey. Right before she jumps out she tells the CEO’s message to the camera. Who would win that engagement contest?

Ridiculous example, I know, but everyone is going to watch that video. People love skydiving donkeys, that’s a fact.

Joking aside, if you think about how marketing has shifted from a one way dialogue to providing value for audience building, it’s smart to think internal communications will follow behind.

The history of marketing has proven to repeat itself. For instance, when television first came out, businessmen, because it was usually men, would stand in front of the camera and read radio scripts for ads. Fast forward to 90’s and you have talking frogs that sell beer because marketers finally understood that you need to offer value (humor) to gain attention, then you can sell the beer.

Fast forward even further and you have Facebook repeating that history. Your feed is full of specials for gym memberships, shoes at a discount and airlines trying to get you on an airplane today. We’re just starting to get into the era of marketers offering up influencer videos, tutorials, books so they can buy your attention. Companies have even gone as far as “one on one” marketing on Twitter to build relationships while being relatable.

Now that the idea of internal communications is really starting to expand, why don’t leaders follow this idea of buying relationships? Are we in the era of “salesy” one way pitches when we should be offering value to get employees from email bullets to consistent intranet engagement?

What’s been proven time and time again is that the platforms may change but people need something in return for their attention, even if their audience is their employees. It’s something that marketers are constantly discussing. Tactics will only go so far when you continuously speak at them and have a one way conversation. It’s why many IC leaders are surprised, and not in a good way, at their engagement numbers once they see the actual data.

Producing great content with talented communicators is one of the hardest things to do (and can certainly get expensive after you shoot a few skydiving videos with flying donkeys), but you can start small and follow the trends of marketing. Giveaways have always proven to boost engagement. You can even start as small as the way you word your emails.

One of the best internal communicators I’ve worked with was a QA Director at a previous software company. In a room full of 80 sales people, she had to constantly push new ways to keep the quality of our work up to par. Getting 80 guys that are constantly on the phone to open emails? Forget about it. Her approach started with eye-catching and usually funny email subject lines like “free tacos in the kitchen” only to then reveal that she was joking and how awful a person she was for doing such a thing! She knew her room well and understood she had to get us to laugh to really pull our attention when we were in the heat of the work day.

With millennials moving to new jobs at a faster rate than ever, leaders in HR will look at employees like software companies look at customer retention. It’s going to be important for them to go the extra mile to hold onto great people. It’s hard to imagine a company like Amazon won’t have an internal employee media department where they have videos and podcasts that relate to their employees. The bullet points and emails that they sent out previously will now be a 20-30 second ad, just like the one before the airplane example. Flying donkeys aren’t as ridiculous as they seem.

Well, kind of.....!

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