The Importance of Internal Communications
Years ago, I had interactions with two CEOs of the same company, and the experience completely changed the way I think about communications.
In the first, case I had lunch with one of the CEOs and asked him, naturally, what his strategy was for the company. He explained at length about the industry history, global economic trends, and a bunch of other stuff. I walked out mystified. I had no idea what his strategy was, but I chalked it up by my own inexperience. “I must be missing the point, because he’s the CEO and I’m just the communications consultant,” I thought.
A year later, he’d been replaced. I had lunch with his successor and asked the same question.
This time, the CEO ticked off three points clearly and elaborated on each in order. We talked about other things and wrapped up lunch. I thanked him for being so open and I said, “I had the same lunch with the previous CEO and walked out more confused than I did when I walked in. Although, after having lunch with you, I know exactly what you want to do after you explained it.”
The new CEO looked at me and said “We talk about this with our employees. If your employees don’t get your strategy, you’re dead. They’re your most important audience. If you can’t explain to them your strategy in a clear, memorable way, you’ve failed. They carry the message as much as anyone, and you want them to show up every day with a clear message in their minds why they’re there.”
It was a revelation that I’ve brought with me to this day. We all know the simpler the message the better: It doesn’t matter really whether it’s one bullet point or three (it shouldn’t be more than three, because the human brain shuts down after three). But the more profound aspect of the lesson was about audience.
We spend so much time and energy developing messages and campaigns on top of the messages that are meant to influence the external audiences. It may be the media, analysts, investors, customers, etc. They’re what we really care about in those planning meetings.
But at the end of the day, audiences either embrace or reject messaging based on how effective it is. If your employees don’t get, no one else will.
So, when you gather in those planning meetings, build your messages with the rule of three (or fewer) in mind and then test those messages internally. Most companies today use Slack or another form of instant communication platform to chat, so you’ll see very quickly how it’s landing.
Including others in the company to review and add their thoughts to marketing messages allows them to be part of the bigger picture for the company. Engaging employees also keeps everyone focused on what matters. People don’t like to be kept in the dark, like mushrooms. They crave information about the company they’re working for, the projects they’re working on, and the overarching goals of both. Remember, employees are your biggest asset to building company awareness and external recruiting. It’s best that all employees know what the outbound communication messages are. This will also build additional trust and value with the employees. You’ll be surprised at the outcome.
Now you might say “We’re a tech company. We’re talking to engineers and developers. Not everyone’s technologically savvy inside our company.” I don’t agree. Even technical product messaging has a human angle to it – a solution that makes a team more productive or gets engineers home sooner in the day to spend time with their kids or makes the company more money. All of these considerations you can bounce off any of your employees to see whether they resonate.
And at the end of the day, if your employees buy what you’re selling, the rest of the world will.