Internal communication used to be the Cinderella of the marcomms world but in the last 5-10 years, certainly with our larger clients, it’s been given a much greater focus. With small- to medium-sized businesses, however, it’s still challenging. They may be aware of the value of internal comms, but there’s a reluctance to dedicate the time and resources to give it the dignity that external comms commands.
We know that millennials view the workplace very differently from previous generations. For many, the company’s ethos and what it stands for is just as important to them as their individual role. Whether you’re a small business or a large organisation, every piece of communication is a chance to reinforce your company’s brand and beliefs – an opportunity to make staff feel more engaged – so it amazes me when I see companies still communicating with a dull email or on a blank piece of paper.
If small businesses want to attract the best talent, they need to follow the lead of bigger organisations ensuring that their visual identity is woven into every touch point, and that includes internal comms. We recently carried out a rebrand for a boutique asset management firm, Cavendish Ware. Although the brief came from the CEO, he wanted his staff to play a key role in the brand’s development to give them a sense of ownership in the business. We presented concepts directly to the staff and the CEO was genuinely open to their feedback.
He later told us that the rebranding process had had a dramatic impact across staff at all levels within the business. The new branding is used not only in external comms but has been used to bring to life all internal communications, and he has noticed a tangible uplift in energy amongst employees – staff motivation, retention and recruitment have all improved. I genuinely believe that when you take advantage of internal comms as a channel to help people engage with your brand’s visual identity, staff will – consciously or subconsciously – ‘get it’, and as a result, speak with greater authority and belief in the company.
Of course for smaller businesses, promoting the brand through internal comms requires some focus and it’s often not possible to dedicate the necessary resources when staff are stretched to capacity delivering whatever the product or service is that they offer. Leaders then, need to learn from what larger companies do to inspire and motivate their staff.
Large organisations are, by nature, more impersonal so they have to put more effort into making their staff feel part of something bigger. We design toolkits for global organisations that are rolled out across the world so that every staff member feels connected to the brand. One of my clients, a multi-national energy company, puts on regular health and safety days for their staff and we have created the assets for the event. The employees are there to learn about health and safety in their workspace, but each person walks away from the day knowing everything about the company, its ethos and its brand values. They feel valued.
SMEs can follow the same strategy using every piece of communication as a reminder of what their brand represents. Sure, in large organisations you have brand guardians helping to enforce this, but by putting the right processes in place to educate people, small companies can become just as brand aware. It can be in the form of a comprehensive toolkit including your brand’s assets and how/where to use them, or it can be as simple as a checklist that each person agrees to follow before sharing information about the company.
Part of my job is convincing leaders of the positive role their visual identity can play in engaging and motivating staff, thus helping them to justify it from a business perspective. I can’t guarantee that they will sell more products as a result, but I can get them to acknowledge the value of enforcing a strong brand identity that everyone within the business understands. After all, if your employees don’t understand your brand how will they ever be able to sell it?