Best Practice

Three Simple Tips for Improving A Financial Firm’s Communications Strategy

Financial firms are facing several challenges, including rapidly changing technology and regulations, role creep within the organization, a diverse and geographically dispersed workforce, and increased expectations from clients.

As professional communicators, we know that an effective internal communications strategy can address these challenges—but it’s not always clear where to start.

Ben Eyler, a communications and content expert who helped improve communications at Citi and TD Ameritrade, has solutions for the most common challenges facing financial firms. In a Poppulo webinar, Ben highlighted three steps you can take today to drive measurable business results for your communications team.

#1 Listen to Colleagues

The first step to driving growth is to listen to your colleagues—and be ready to respond to what you hear.

Ben describes this step as an investment. The process can be as expansive or as constrained as you like, depending on your organization’s needs and resources.

But given the challenges facing your organization and the factors shaping it—and the influence these can have on your employees—it’s absolutely crucial that you check in with employees regularly to assess how they’re doing and where they need support.

So, ask colleagues probing questions, like “What do you need to do your job more effectively?” and “How successful have we been at communicating with you, and how can we improve?”

Listen without preconceptions, and don’t assume that what worked in the past will continue to work.

Also, be sure to go beyond the people on the front lines. Far too often in financial firms, surveys focus on front-office staff like financial advisors and salespeople.

While their feedback is valuable, it represents just one part of the whole picture. You don’t want to overlook the problems—or miss out on the great ideas—happening elsewhere.

By going beyond the front lines, as Ben recommends, you may find that your back office employees have creative, tangible ideas for improving customer-facing products.

Then, once you’ve listened well and gathered feedback, be ready to respond. You’ll want to have mechanisms in place so you can act on the information you’ve received in a timely manner. After all, doing a listening exercise and failing to follow up is worse than having done nothing at all.

#2 Integrate Employee Communications

The second step you can take is to integrate internal communications so that they’re part of the core of your communications practice. Too often, organizations view employee communications as the last step in the decision-making process.

They wait until a change is about to occur or a product is ready to launch before thinking about how to explain it to employees.

Treating employee communications like an afterthought can compromise the entire project. When employees are left in the dark, they feel less engaged and less loyal to the company, and they are ill-equipped to meet clients’ needs.

Say you’re rolling out a new product, but you haven’t fully explained the product to your employees or shared the marketing materials with them. If your salespeople are unclear about the product’s features and the benefits it offers to clients, they may not promote it for fear of being caught off-guard by a question they can’t answer.

All of the time and effort your organization devoted to developing and refining the product could be stunted by an inadequate employee communications strategy.

So, be thinking about employee communications at every step in the process. Look across all channels and communications—including external, client-facing communications—and seek out opportunities to “tell the story” along the way.

#3 Assign a Communications Leader

Finally, the third step for getting started quickly is to put someone in charge of leading employee communications. When communications are everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.

This usually means that internal communications end up being an afterthought for the marketing team to tackle—which we’ve already learned is not ideal.

But there are some other drawbacks as well. When no one person or team is responsible for internal communications, it can be difficult to persuade leadership of the changes that need to happen, whether that be hiring additional staff, investing in a new platform, or overhauling a product.

And what’s more, effective employee communications requires specialized expertise and knowledge of the audience, the industry, and any legal or regulatory considerations. So, for many reasons, it’s really important that someone be responsible for employee communications.

These three tried-and-true methods—listen to employees, integrate employee communications, and assign a leader—can help you hammer away at the challenges facing your organization. If you’d like to learn more, check out Ben’s Poppulo webinar, “Financial Firms’ 5 Key Challenges—How Internal Communications Can Make a Measurable Difference.”

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