In PR we spend a lot of time talking about how we communicate externally. We’ll discuss PR pitch strategy, media relations best practices, crisis communications and how they relate to our external audience – so much so that we often forget about our internal audience. When PR pros forget their internal marketing strategy and communicating with their workplace, they have inadvertently failed with 50% their job.
Many of us fall into the same trap: we get busy and prioritize the external communications tactics that show our ROI, and we forget about the importance of internal communication, employee engagement and relationships.
It's wise to remember when framed effectively, all internal communication is internal PR - and this has immense value to PR pros.
Those working in the PR department have a very public position within a company, and as such, employees are paying attention to you whether or not you’re paying attention to them. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the only staff you need to consider is only your boss or CEO. In truth, your internal audience is every employee across the organization, and as with every marketing and public relations job, it’s important to know your audience and have valuable communication with them.
By paying equal attention to your internal audience you will quickly show your value, become a trusted resource, boost employee engagement all whilst becoming more knowledgeable and better informed within your company. Knowing your company inside and out will, in turn, help you externally.
The best part: it isn’t very hard to master internal PR.
The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. – Sam Walton, Wal-Mar
As communication professionals, we often forget that listening is key to having great conversations. In order for our PR programs to be extraordinary, we must become extraordinary listeners within our companies and welcome feedback from the workforce. Always remember the wealth of knowledge held by those around you; if you’re not a curious person, become a curious person. Ask questions, seek input and get to know your co-workers – and not just your executive team. Listen to what they have to say. You’ll learn something, you’ll become better connected, and you’ll find ways to take what you learn and apply it to your own work.
Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value. – Louis L’Amour
In PR, sharing should be consistent on two fronts: communicating about upcoming programs/releases and sharing PR successes.
Upcoming programs and releases: Internal communication is vital before and at the time of a press release or campaign. Let people know that the release is going to be made public. This can be as simple as a post on a corporate intranet or an email. A simple message letting co-workers know that “the following press release is going out today” will win you quite a few friends. As you know, everyone hates it when their customers ask about a press release that they know nothing about, a quick share solves that problem in minutes. This can also help you boost employee engagement as staff will likely share the release too.
Sharing PR successes: Most co-workers love to see the press and accolades your company receives and it is your job to share them. This can be tricky at times: most will enjoy seeing great press, but no one wants a barrage of emails every time your company is mentioned.
To keep people informed and cut down on your own email, I recommend a weekly or monthly newsletter with links. This can be as simple as an email from you, or an automated alert set up through your media monitoring tool. With Meltwater, for example, you can set up an internal newsletter that sends automatically: all you need to do is specify how often, who receives it and what articles to include. This is a simple way to optimise internal communication, start by sending these newsletters to all employees and offer the opportunity to opt out. Most will love the info and your department will increase its visibility.
In the long history of humankind (and animal kind too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. – Charles Darwin
I believe that the best way for a PR team (in-house or agency) to be successful is to integrate into the workplace as much as possible. PR rarely works well when it operates in a silo. Successful PR requires information, product, experts, other marketing (social media, advertising, etc) and access to information that only comes through successful integration - such as employee feedback. Re-read steps one and two: listening and sharing will help you to better integrate within your company.
In this great future, you can’t forget your past. – Bob Marley
Even though it’s doubtful Mr. Marley had PR in mind when he wrote this lyric, it fits. Your future success in PR will be much stronger if you learn from your experiences, both good and bad.
About 10 years ago I started working for my first startup. I was hired by the founders and was fortunate enough to learn from their entrepreneurial ways. One day, I remember hearing one of them say, “fail fast and learn.” The concept was simple but also quite insightful, and I quickly realized that he was sharing a piece of his life’s philosophy: try things, don’t be afraid to fail, and if you do fail, recognize it quickly and learn from the experience.
The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. – George Bernard Shaw
Never consider internal PR or communication to be completed: think of it as a cycle that never ends. You listen, share, integrate, learn and repeat; it’s that simple. It may seem overwhelming to think of communication this way, as a project that never ends. But, in truth, if you follow these general steps, internal communications will begin to become a natural part of what you do everyday and you will hardly realize your communicating. This doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges, there will always be challenges; it means you’ll be very good at dealing with them when they arise.
So, there you have it: a few simple steps to mastering internal PR. Not too hard, right? If it seems overwhelming or is stressing you out take a deep breath and listen to another Marley’s classic, Three Little Birds…
Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right. -Bob Marley
…it’s sure to put your mind at ease!