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Latest themes and techniques for successful internal communications

PR Week has just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Annual Internal Communications Conference, where the great and the good working in staff motivation and engagement came together to hear the latest developments. As you would expect, the line-up was jam packed with cutting edge insights, case studies and practical solutions on everything internal communications (IC).

One of the great reasons to attend a conference like this is to get an indicator of what the next couple of years could hold. Among the ‘5 great reasons’, and ‘6 steps to engagement’ tips, were some clear future trends and directions. Social media quickly became prominent throughout many discussions. And three clear themes were evident to driving today’s successful IC strategies - ‘purpose’, ‘storytelling’ and ‘value’.

Effective use of social media

While social offers a multitude of ways to build two way communication, there was wide appreciation of the fact that it’s easy and often tempting to try to spread resource too thinly. Achieving at best very little and at worst a negative reaction.

This trend was named ‘Social by Design’. It focuses around having meaning in what we are trying to say or do, and making whatever we post or share remarkable - something people want to share or comment on. The importance of effortless participation was also highlighted - if we make it difficult or ask too much it simply won’t happen.

Core to IC success ‘storytelling’ and ‘purpose’

I wish I had a pound for the number of mentions of ‘purpose’ and ‘stories’, but what became clear was how they are integral to the success or failure of IC initiatives.

IC will be all the more effective if employees understand both the purpose of the business and their role within it, so that they can understand how to connect the two. Remember the corporate ambition is the ‘stick of rock’ that runs throughout a business, allowing people to align themselves around it.

Allianz roadshow

Of course, narrative is still king, and stories are what bring the values of a business to life. In an age where corporate value sets are increasingly generic or interchangeable, or sometimes wilfully obscure, stories are the evidence of the values. Stories are personal, unique and specific to the individual and therefore the business.

While stories give insight, information gives data. Coca-Cola described stories as ‘data with soul’ and while that may be a bit trite for some palates, it supports the point that we are now well and truly beyond ‘IC as information exchange’ stage. IC only has a place if it’s making a difference, the time has passed when it existed as a means of passively moving information from A to B.

These days, no one communicates in a linear fashion. This is evident in how we use phones and tablets on the way to work to using skype at our desks or at home. IC campaigns have to respond to this and understand new behaviour, acknowledging that sometimes we need to act as ‘disruptors’ to ensure message cut-through. Face-to-face communication is one of those ways to stand-out. Conversations are about people, technology is just the enabler and however much social becomes a cornerstone of lC nothing will replace the immediacy and power of communicating face-to-face.

Customer techniques adopted for internal audiences

The idea that one size doesn’t fit all rang out loud and clear. Termed ‘the communication of waves’ by Paul Osgood from Philips, it was clear that we need to consider message and medium as one. It was interesting to see how customer-driven comms techniques and methodologies are at long last being adopted internally. We’re now recognising that employees are people in the same way that customers are, and reacting to the way that they consume media and messaging.

Use of video

DHL employee roadshow

This leads rather neatly on to the next trend - ‘moving images are moving business’. The idea that people are not only consuming video but are using it as a means to communicate internally is becoming a reality. A simple example is staff filming a problem on their PC and posting it for IT Support to see. On an extreme scale we heard about how business can cease to engage if it doesn’t understand how its employees behave. Forex Traders at a UK bank turned to Bloomberg and FT for news about their own business due to a void in communication.

Value

Demonstrating return-on-investment is key to any long-term IC success and measurement was discussed at large throughout the conference. As comms methods become ever more sophisticated, so must the measures. Measuring the immediate impact of our communications on perception and understanding is vital - lots of small percentage shifts across an extended period will aggregate to deliver significant change over time.

Here’s a final thought, if you needed convincing about the power of effective IC within an organisation and why we should measure that effectiveness - return to shareholders has been 47% higher from companies that communicate well with their employees and in turn outperform their competition 1.7 times.

Quite simply, companies that communicate effectively achieve better results.

If you are interested in how we can help you bring your IC campaign to life with face-to-face communication, get in touch today.