Internal communications is a lot like dating. Trust, transparency and consistent open lines of communication are key to a long, fruitful relationship. But many companies—both small and large—often skip the courting process when communicating with employees. And just like in dating, neglect over time breeds both apathy and resentment.
The value of effective internal communications to an organization and its bottom line has never been more important. Today’s culture of information overload coupled with the erosion of trust in business has shined a light on what savvy communicators have always known: your internal audience can be your best ambassador, or your loudest detractor.
Making every moment count to create meaningful and authentic touchpoints with stakeholders helps build trust. And the time to start building the trust is well before you need to share difficult or unpopular news.
If your most valuable assets walk out the door every day, then Stratacomm’s golden rules for winning the hearts and minds of internal stakeholders will help you develop authentic messages that resonate and move people.
Rule 1: Reverse roles—Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Stakeholder wants and needs vary by demographic, region, role and a litany of other factors. An email won’t help someone who’s on the shop floor all day and a printed flyer won’t appeal to someone glued to a screen. Understanding these nuances—which start with the audience first and not your own preferences for how you like to receive information—is key.
Rule 2: Show appreciation—Small gestures go a long way. Who doesn’t like receiving flowers “just because” or hearing “thank you” from a significant other for doing a mundane task? Surprise and delight with small tokens to express appreciation. It can be individualized for a sole person’s efforts; for example, at Stratacomm an employee is recognized each Monday with a team player award. It’s a small figurine that has become part of our cultural lore, where the award is decorated before it’s passed onto the next person. Appreciation can also be shown on a larger scale through a department lunch or gift cards delivered to a team for completing a project.
Rule 3: Try new things—Weekly emails, newsletters, holiday greetings and roundtable discussions are all tried and true methods. Continue that, but also create new communication touchpoints. It can be as simple as encouraging executives to walk the halls and factory floors while paying attention to the little things (even wearing sneakers or jeans with their business blazer can help foster rapport) to more complex tools like creating a custom app to share information.
Rule 4: Pay attention—Akin to reversing roles, knowing what makes your audience tick requires attention to detail. Did an employee recently complete a degree program? Do you have first-hand feedback to help explain to the board the value of summer Fridays? Listen to the world around you and leverage those nuggets of information as opportunities to create touchpoints.
Rule 5: When in doubt, just ask—People appreciate being asked for input. The best thing about internal communications is that you have a captive audience that can be polled, questioned and surveyed at any given moment. With such high stakes and company leadership from all functions affected by outcomes, you have a built-in focus group to understand the underlying tenor of stakeholders. From a formal company-wide satisfaction survey to an informal ask of a group gathering for lunch about what they thought of the CEO roundtable last week, the opportunities for touchpoints is endless.
Laying this groundwork not only builds bonds, but when the need for change communication occurs—and it will—stakeholders will be prepared and trust the sincerity of the message and messengers. Now, go call your significant other and tell that person how much you appreciate them.
This post was co-authored by Karah Davenport, vice president, and Sharon Hegarty, managing director and partner, both based in Stratacomm’s Detroit office.