Marketers and communicators instinctively understand the reasons behind tailoring messaging to audiences, but we still underserve our internal teams. As the ambassadors of our brands, as the personification of our missions, our own teams are the most important audience we have. And yet, we seldom develop internal communications plans, campaigns or even messaging.
Until very recently, a lack of an internal communications plan could be shored up by invoking “the grapevine” or counting on quick conversations as you pass in the hallway. However, if you haven’t spent as least some part of your career on a remote or virtual team, you most likely are on one now, dealing with new issues like Zoom etiquette and distributed locations. Experts are telling us that with the success many companies have seen in fully transitioning to work from home teams, our new environment is here to stay.
So how can we keep our remote teams informed, connected, and motivated? Pretty much, just like you would other audiences. Check out our internal communications best practices:
Know your audience
Think about your team members as individuals who share a common interest in their work. Take some time to put yourself in their shoes and surface what they are concerned about, what excites them and what they need to know to do their best work. Think about these questions from a team member’s point-of-view: What is going to happen to my company? Where do I stand? How can I contribute? What’s my piece of this latest change or pivot? To truly understand this audience, we suggest creating an audience persona for your team members (hint: you may need more than one). Check out our post on creating human personas for help getting started.
Consider a variety of media and tools
I think it’s safe to say that most of us are weary of Zoom calls, but they are a great way to get face time right now. We’re all looking for easier to digest content, and that holds especially true for our needs in internal communications. For example, depending on the information you need to share and the goals of your communication, you could potentially use a visual or infographic in place of a long-form email to give your team a break from processing the written word.
Other media and tools to check out:
Social media–yep, your team is watching what you put out on your public channels.
Intranet–if you have several key departments or content contributors who create internal communications, developing an intranet for your team is a great option. The intranet we built for WashU Law is accessible and easy to update, making it a key tool in the internal comms tool kit.
Webinars–a quick way to share complex information with large groups, and incorporate conversations and engagement. Bonus: record a webinar and then you can share it with new people who need the same information as they join the team.
Blogs–not as engaging as other formats, blogs are a good way to develop a set of resources created by different writers or teams, that people can explore at their own pace.
Apps–Lots of productivity and collaboration apps out there that can also be used for culture-building and communication. Our team uses Slack, and we’ve reduced the number of internal emails to almost zero, plus we’ve got fun channels like movie-recs, taco-talk, and random to keep us all connected around non-work topics.
Know WHY you are communicating
Some internal communications goals are to inspire, to inform, to motivate. Decide why you need to communicate, then get clear about how you want your audience to react to the news you share. A simple exercise is to think through what you want your team to Think, Feel, and Do, after they hear from you.
Have a plan
Internal communications will not “just happen” especially today, when we’re all physically separated. Being intentional and thinking through touchpoints, timeline and messages, just like you do in marketing to your target audiences, is a key internal communications best practice. If you don’t already have an internal plan, check out our Almanac Marketing Template for a great framework to get you started.
Your team is made up of humans, so please, please, please converse with them as another human. Leave your jargon behind, intend to be transparent, and edit any communications for clarity. It’s okay to show emotion, and even more okay to say “I don’t know, but I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
Involve your audience
This one is simple: people believe in what they help create, so look for opportunities to bring team members into conversation. Ask for thoughts on new goals as they’re being set, give folks a chance to share concerns about productivity or new ideas for collaboration.
Most of all, just communicate. Leaders must make communication happen, and especially now. So call the meeting, create the Slack channel, model the behavior of sharing information openly. Bottom line, following internal communications best practices can help keep your team engaged in your work and motivated to contribute to the goals you’ve shared with them.
Have some great internal comms ideas to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do a follow up post with everyone’s ideas!