Proverbs 27:23. Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds
Companies and nonprofits spend a lot of time and effort catering to and communicating with external audiences, as they should. But the audience closest at hand is your staff, the members of your organization, your internal audience, whether it’s five people at a dry cleaners or a workforce of thousands in a global conglomerate. The success of your venture depends on the engagement, loyalty and proficiency of its workers. Internal communications is essential to developing these positive qualities in your people.
Internal communications should be the first bullet point in the PR strategy summary. It demands the creativity, insight and doggedness that we devote to external communications—our polished ads, our sticky Web sites, our timely media pitches. But just as we may take loved ones for granted, fellow workers often receive less than their due in messaging, information and attention.
The benefits of internal communications in concrete business terms:
- Buy-in for company initiatives and direction
- Acceptance and usage of new systems and technologies
- Interdepartmental cooperation
- Recruitment and retention
- Product knowledge and resultant sales
I recently taught a course on leadership at a Christian university. One of the texts we used was the highly regarded Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree. Mr. De Pree makes a compelling case for internal communications as a mandate for leaders:
Good communication liberates us to do our jobs better. It is as simple as that. Good corporate communication allows us to respond to the demands placed on us and to carry out our responsibilities. This really means, too, that leaders can use communication to free the people they lead. To liberate people, communication must be based on logic, compassion, and sound reasoning.
What comprises internal communications? A newsletter? An email series? Maybe a town hall or two? The answer: all the above and much more. Internal communications must be structured and executed just like its external counterpart. David Grossman, a nationally recognized expert in internal communication, recently posted “What is a Strategic Internal Communication Plan?” His seven-step structure mirrors traditional marketing plans, the framework to reach external audiences. This parallel is illuminating. Mr. Grossman says that we must apply the same level of research, planning and delivery if we want to capture our internal audiences.
Also demonstrating the parallel between internal and external communications is internal communications’ growing use of multiple media. Charong Chow leads content strategy for Social Chorus. She blogs about the role of digital and visual communication in connecting with employees. In short, it is more than a standard newsletter and lunchroom posters—not that there’s anything inherent wrong with those communication tools. The point is that an internal audience is just that—an audience comprising diverse members whose communication preferences will vary. As Ms. Chow points out, some may be simply hard to reach due to the location and nature of their duties.
Another important point—today’s communication is bi-directional, as in social media that foster feedback, original content from multiple sources, and—dare I say—argument. Internal communications must never be a top-down affair, edicts from on high. The integrated marketing communications that drive a modern and thorough internal communications program are inherently bi-directional. Ultimately, communication must flow bottom-up as well as top-down, and horizontally between peers in the organizational structure.
There is an alternative to an internal communications program—the rumor mill. I didn’t say a good alternative. Unfortunately, the rumor mill is the primary way people receive and share information in far too many organizations. 2 Timothy 2:23 warns us of the consequences:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
Information is power. It must not be hoarded. It must be shared. Jesus Christ, the servant leader, the master communicator, shared His wisdom and showed His disciples how to do the same. The Good Shepherd tends his flock. Tend yours with a well-developed and faithfully executed internal communications program.
This article is taken from a transcript From Jason Karpf’s June 18, 2019 podcast and used by permission.
Jason Karpf is the author of Developing a Christian Marketing Plan, a blogger on A Christian’s Guide to Marketing, a nonprofit professional, Adjunct Instructor of Marketing at LeTourneau University and a four-time champion on the TV game show “Jeopardy.”