Strategic Internal Communication: Getting Engagement with Business Strategy
Communication goals: are you meeting them enough? 60% of companies don’t even have a long-term communication strategy, says Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. They also have trouble answering what strategic communication is, an issue tied to good company culture and corporate identity. Additionally, 65% of companies do not measure the effectiveness of their strategic communication plan.
See, communication is essential to human interaction. No matter what the context, whether internal communication or grabbing a cup of coffee, it is necessary in order to achieve your outcome. That is why having a strategy is so important.
But it’s not just about the information; it’s about making sure that your message is heard, understood, and acted upon. Without a clear and concise communication strategy, even the best intentions and messages can fall flat.
What is strategic communication?
At first, strategic communication can seem like an impossible idea to use; it’s a broad term that can be understood and applied in many different contexts.
However, it can be narrowed down into a concrete definition for internal communicators.
Strategic communication is the basis of how people communicate with their audience. This includes many different parts:
“who you are talking to, why are you talking to them… what form of communication the content should take and what channels you should use to share it”Haseeb Tariq
The communication strategy, according to Arkansas State University, is overarching, ongoing, and answers why and what. It provides a general direction.
As internal communicators, you are using these tactics to focus on employee communication. Strategic internal communications raise the value of communication by tying it to the goals and results of the business.
What is a strategic communication plan?
Unlike a communication strategy, a strategic communication plan is about execution, which means that it is time-bound. Less broad. As opposed to answering what and why, Mynhardt van Pletsen says it answers how.
The communication plan is a step-by-step process that leads you toward a concrete goal. An example of a strategic communication plan goes as follows:
Our business needs to be producing content that is interesting and also hitting the marks in terms of engagement within our employee communications. In order to write these stories that are interesting and that generate new ideas, this is what we’ve come up with: First, cast a wide net of interest with different content on a general channel. This produces general interest stories. Then, collect the data in order to segment our audiences. Finally, we can use this process to inspire new stories based on the information we collected.
Strategic Internal Communication: Corporate Identity
Employers, without realizing it, show their corporate values through their behavior. This is why incorporating corporate identity into strategic internal communication is highly beneficial.
Through internal communication, a company can help employees internalize their core values. Those employees will be able to transfer those values into attitudes and behaviors.
Customer interaction can make the employees’ attitudes and behaviors count. In this emerging “experience economy”, the consumer is a guest who wants a personal and memorable experience. If those values are being communicated within your internal communication, then your employees will internalize them and reflect them with customers.
British Airways, for example, goes beyond just traveling and competes on the distinct experience that they provide. Instead of the regular chaos of a flight, their employees turn it into an ‘oasis’ (Prokesch, 1995). Disney is also a great example of employee brand identity that can transfer to the experience economy. Each employee, called a “cast member”, gets training on how to deliver the promises of the company to its customers. Those promises are safety, courtesy, efficiency, and entertainment (Zyman, 2002).
The talent management application of this skill would be ensuring that the employees have a high sense of importance.
Strategic Internal Communication: Company Culture
Merging company culture and internal communication is another useful strategy.
According to Dimarco and Walter, the culture of an institution plays a major role in its performance. McKinsey looked at over 1,000 organizations and found that top-quartile cultures have a return to shareholders 60% higher than median companies and 200% higher than those in the bottom quartile.
Since communication is based on the behaviors that happen between different parts of an organization (executives, HR, marketing, IT, etc), it’s important to let culture drive interactions to establish common habits, behaviors, and attitudes—thus, culture.
The culture is then driven by strategic internal communications: strong leadership can transfer to internal communications, showing “the vision of the organization’s core values and corporate identity,” (Laker).
An example of good company culture is the standard of using one communication tool to contact internal stakeholders.
Company culture can also emerge in environmental, social, and governance initiatives. Developing a tone or stance that reflects and integrates these concepts is a strategy you can easily adopt. According to McKinsey, a strong sense of ESG can help companies find quality employees, enhance employee motivation by giving them a sense of purpose, and increase productivity.
Wrapping it Up
Strategic internal communication isn’t churning out tons of content for the sake of surface-level communication-there is attention to detail and deep thinking, which positively affect your employees.
Employees want to feel connected to the organization. One way to meet that need is through purposeful leadership communication and a good strategic communication plan. Here are some suggestions:
- Casually connect with employees and maintain open communication – office walkabouts; random employee cafeteria visits – light-hearted, personal interactions.
- Communicate with specific employee groups – round table discussions, Employee Advisory Groups, departments, units, etc.
- Connect with employees to share key messages and recognize achievements – videos or podcasts, live-streamed webcasts, and email shout-outs.
- Provide an open, anonymous employee-focused forum for asking questions – web chat forum, question-and-answer website (“ask the CEO”), surveys, and questionnaires.
- Inform employees of organizational values and progress towards goals – emails, employee intranet, meetings, and any other channels.
Strategic internal communication leaves a large impact on employees’ relationships with the organization. The strategy is what internal communicators come back to when they make a decision or send out a communication. The specific parts of it – good company culture and corporate identity – strengthen the bond between employees and the company.
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