Internal Public Relations: Looking inside your company for your best marketers
I recently read an article discussing 2016 brand trends published by Landor, a global leader in brand consulting and design and a member of the Young and Rubicam group. One of the headline trends Landor noted was ”Employees as the new marketing campaign.” The premise of this trend, they stated, is that customers are as concerned about how a company treats their employees as they are about the services or products the company provides.
A number of years ago, one of our clients was struggling with employees not understanding their products, not being highly motivated and, therefore, not presenting the right face to the company’s customers. As their PR agency, we presented a program for internal public relations, including motivational materials, an employee newsletter and other recommendations to improve employee morale and, ultimately, enhance the customer experience. While some members of the client leadership team felt the program had some merit, one individual was especially vocal in saying that human resources and operations should worry about the employees; it’s not the role of PR. Apparently he felt that press release writing, media relations and coordinating events were the only areas PR people should be concerned about.
By contrast, we had another client who believed so strongly in the value of internal marketing, his company did very little external marketing. I believe his exact words were “if our employees don’t believe in us and understand what we’re doing, how can we expect the outside world to?”
Fortunately, the latter example of internal public relations was a precursor for how internal public relations is now trending. In the past 10 years, more and more companies are realizing that good internal communications is not only an integral part of a good overall public relations program, but that it’s often crucial to the success of the company and its brand. When the internal environment of a company is positive, it will carry over to the organization’s external publics – specifically current customers and those who might be purchasing products or services in the future.
The virtuous circle of management.
What are the essentials of a good internal PR program?
Good communication – Perhaps the most common problem stems from management assuming that everyone in the organization possesses the same information they do. Or if a manager provides the information once to staff, everyone should remember it. Internal newsletters providing key information about the company’s products and/or services, noting recent changes in the company, introducing new staff or highlighting exemplary employees, will not only keep everyone properly informed, it will also stimulate a sense of pride among team members that they are working for a company that respects and cares about them.
Training – Often, new people come on board and are just thrown into a job. Management may speak with them briefly about their responsibilities, but doesn’t provide context. What is the vision of the company? What are its goals and values? What does management expect of them individually and collectively? A personal welcome by the company president or key members of management will go a long way in setting a positive tone. In a large corporation when top management is not always available to personally greet each new hire, a video providing this information, including a sincere welcome, can help make sure all members of the organization understand what the company is all about and better equip them to be ambassadors for the brand.
Motivational materials – Everyone needs a stimulus once in a while to reinforce the company’s values or to get the juices flowing again. In-house posters, company meetings, branded environmental graphics and premium items, and contests are all ways to reach out to employees and remind them that they are important and appreciated.
Relationship building – Providing opportunities for employees to mingle with and get to know each other in an informal setting will build positive relationships, not only with other staff members, but also with management. A few possibilities could include holding special company or spontaneous events like having a TGIF get together a couple of hours before ending the working day. Or involving employees in a charity event the company supports – fundraising, collecting needed supplies, even providing a special day for volunteering. And be sure to publicize it internally (and externally if appropriate). Generating publicity for your employees will boost morale as well as increase pride in the organization and brand.
While an external public relations program is beneficial to any organization, its value will be enhanced even more when complemented with a strong internal program. When employees are educated and engaged, they will feel respected by management and more motivated. This in turn creates a more favorable environment for generating positive public relations with external audiences – your customers, prospects and the media. The ultimate benefit should be seen in the bottom line – more sales and increased revenue.
If you have employees who are great ambassadors of your brand, take Landor’s idea and make them a part of your marketing efforts. Nothing will provide you with a better return on your PR investment.
After several years of seeing no real improvement with their employees, the client who nixed an internal PR program, has now started one.
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