Work About News

Aligning internal and external communications for competitive advantage

17 Apr 2018

For much of my career, I have been more focussed on b2b external communications yet in recent months a couple of client engagements have been minor epiphanies.

Consequently, I have, perhaps somewhat belatedly, come to appreciate and value the substantive competitive advantage that accrues for an organisation when both internal and external communications are not only aligned, but actually feed into one another.

In 2018, today’s employees are no longer selectively spoon-fed information from corporate management through a relatively prescribed number of channels. With all-prevalent social media, every stakeholder - whether they actually “reside” inside or outside of the organization – is now empowered, connected and very often demanding to be heard.

This change is a key reason for an irreversible blurring of the boundaries between internal and external communication. It completely changes how an organization communicates with its people, and indeed transforms how myself and my Mulberry colleagues as communications professionals now painstakingly craft internal messages while very much keeping in mind the slightly different approach or storytelling style required to ensure maximum potential external impact of the same news items.

Again, in a world of pared-back workforces and multi-functional teams, more colleagues – beyond what might be termed the traditional sales team or distribution channel are in contact with customers – and probably vice versa too – so it is commercially savvy to leverage those relationships in communications.

I would wager that every organization would say without hesitation that in a perfect world, they would want to have their employees acting as brand ambassadors. It is therefore incredibly imperative that all employees need to genuinely buy into the company’s brand values and be and willing to deliver on them. An organization needs to genuinely understand and relate to its employees and its customers before it can engage with either group.

If you want to project something externally – be it a new service or product, refreshed and re-energised corporate vision, geographic expansion or M & A activity for example – it is critical that internally people know what the news is - plus have more than a mere grasp of the substance, importance and relevance of it. Smart organizations will also equip and empower those internal staffers to tell that story to whomever they are in contact with in the kind of terms that both they feel comfortable with using, and that will also resonate with their respective audiences.

To my mind, organizations that run off myopically concentrating on external comms with scant regard to internal comms, run a very real risk of low employee trust and reduced morale – all for the simple lack of an aligned approach., And if that happens, I hate to think what kind of message they will be putting out in the marketplace for your organization.

To truly engage successfully, as well as a consistent set of people-based values (ideally), organizations also need an understanding of the different delivery and communication styles required for both internal and external communications success. These styles include but are not limited to channel, content, and cadence.

Another vital element is selecting the most appropriate drivers to provide a why, when, and where in engagement. The goal of all communications – be it internal, external or both - is to inspire action through context and catalysts (CTAs). Here context means the delivery mechanism or distribution of the communications and where it will be consumed plus its sentiment, all of which need to be considered to deliver the right offer to the right person at the right time. Catalysts or calls to action are what is weaved into the communications to inspire the desired action and response.

For me, it is clear cut especially in our digital world, that open lines of communication between organizations and both their internal and external stakeholders will grow increasingly influential in every company’s success.

I very much look forward to expanding my own knowledge and experience of aligning external and internal communications with internal comms specialists such as Kelli Hopp-Michlosky at Diversey (disclosure: Diversey is a client of Mulberry) and Chris Gamble of The Morgan Agency