Why should you treat your internal communications more like content marketing?
Answer: Because your internal communications are content marketing. Or at least, they should be.
The dreaded office memo has provided the setup for workplace jokes from Dilbert to Office Space. As technology increasingly permeates the world of work, communication becomes easier in some ways and more difficult in others. A content marketing-minded approach to internal communications can help keep your important and insightful messages from being lost in information overload.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Let’s break that down.
Create and distribute valuable, relevant, and consistent content
Valuable and relevant content gives the audience information they didn’t have before—tips, news, perspective, etc.—that benefits their life. For an internal communications audience, relevant content most likely benefits their working life.
While this may not be a groundbreaking revelation, it lays the groundwork for effective internal communications through the lens of content marketing.
When you’re trying to engage with and encourage people within your own organization, the hardest part of distribution is done for you—you already have their contact information.
But having your audience’s email address or access to their intranet doesn’t mean you have their attention, especially considering the whole “sheer volume of communications” problem we talked about before.
In a study of more than 300 communications and HR professionals––71% said employees don’t read or engage with company emails or content. Broadening your deliverables for internal communications can be a wake-up call to your audience. Instead of another email, maybe a video, a microsite, a podcast. Anything to disrupt the autopilot “ignore” from your content’s recipients.
As consumers, we’re marketed to every day—increasingly via content. We seek out or come across media that give us information we want and lead us to related products and services that add some kind of value to our lives. When it comes to content marketing, we’re self-centered. This is understandable considering the constant flow of information coming at us from every direction. If we can’t tie the message of a piece of content back to ourselves, we ignore it. We save our interest and brainpower for the stuff that matters to us.
You want your business to be on your employees’ “Stuff That Matters” list. The aforementioned study also found that 64% of internal communications professionals said the biggest struggle in IC is the sheer volume of communications, followed by gaining buy-in from employees. These issues are related.
As long as the employee receiving the communication can easily see the relevance to their specific role and responsibilities, internal communications are shown to have a positive effect on employee engagement—in other words, helping them buy in. A focus on relevance will also cut the volume of communications down to a more manageable number.
Another way to underline relevance and gain buy-in: Visuals.
Subject matter and messaging drive the value and relevance of your communications, but your strategy shouldn’t ignore the content’s presentation. Including relevant visuals in your relevant content shows that you…
- Value the message you’re distributing enough to make it look intriguing and professional
- Respect your audience’s time and realize that effective visuals (charts, graphs, icons, photos, illustrations) communicate your message more efficiently, saving them comprehension time
Granted, visuals don’t need to be part of every internal communication message that passes through your organization. A plain text email is fine for an announcement about when the maintenance crew plans to repaint the lines in parking lot B. But major accomplishments, changes, employee testimonials, and such things deserve a bit of fanfare.
And, as we’ll discuss in a moment, company policies and employee benefits could also use some love.
…to attract and retain a clearly defined audience
The audience is pretty clearly defined, but why do you need to attract members of your own organization? Aren’t they already in?
Well… yes and no. They’re employed by the company, obviously, but there’s a big difference between being at work and wanting to be at work. According to Gallup, only 13% of employees feel engaged during their jobs.
Employee engagement relies on communication above all else. A “no-news-is-good-news” approach to internal communications will ensure you elicit a Pavlovian cringe to the few updates employees do get. What is it this time—a PR crisis? Layoffs? On top of that, you miss out on opportunities to bring your employees into the fold and remind them that they contribute to important and meaningful work.
With an increasingly remote and/or mobile workforce, it can be difficult for businesses to connect their widely distributed employees with the organization’s mission, vision, goals, and updates—even with the many technologies available to support communication. Companies can’t let their relationships with employees die due to this difficulty. They simply need to try a new approach, and visual content is the perfect opportunity.
On top of day-to-day visual communications, the onboarding process gives you the opportunity to attract and retain your employees from the very start. Present your company policies and employee benefits in easy digestible visual formats: A handout with tables that compare different options they can choose from. An interactive microsite walking them through how your company handles parental leave. A poster that explains how your business works with key selling points. You attract and retain by creating understanding.
…and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action
Employee engagement and effective change management both have positive effects on a company’s bottom line.
Compared to businesses in the bottom quartile of employee engagement, those in the top quartile have significantly lower rates of absenteeism, turnover, theft, safety incidents, and product defects.
Engaged employees show up to work, do better while they’re there, and participate actively in change management initiatives. That last point is especially important because organizational change truly succeeds or fails based on whether or not individuals are on board. Organizations don’t change until people do.
It’s hard to change. Ask anyone who’s ever had a New Year’s resolution. Even if you aren’t the resolution-making kind, you’ve almost certainly dealt with change management at some point, from an extensive corporate restructuring to the overhauling of your kitchen cabinets. In both of these examples, and in every change management situation, the change succeeds or fails based on buy-in from individuals.
Employees want clear, open communication with and from decision-makers in the organization, especially when there’s change a-brewin’.
Communications should include things that the champion of the change already knows, primarily: Why is the change necessary? What’s in it for me? In short, valuable and relevant content. We’re self-centered, remember?
Organized approaches to change management include opportunities for effective, visual internal content communications. Here are some examples of content formats that align with the steps of one of the most popular change management models:
Awareness of the need for change
- Letter from the CEO
- Introduction of campaign to fix the problem
Desire to participate and support the change, knowledge on how to change
- Specialized content (blogs, infographics) that explain how this change will make things better for stakeholders
Ability to implement required skills and behaviors, reinforcement to sustain the change
- Resources contained in a microsite
- Ongoing visual reports showing the initiative’s progress and results
A content marketing-style campaign isn’t the end-all solution for change management in an organization, but it lays a good foundation.
Your internal communications are content marketing.
Prepare to enjoy a more engaged and informed workforce as you communicate via “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”