Now more than ever, companies are boosting their internal communications strategies. But without an external communications strategy, the employee relations plan will not be as effective and may in fact be inherently flawed. When communications strategies are incomplete or don’t align, employees receive mixed-messages and inconsistent facts, leaving them confused and disconnected from their organization.
While the importance of communicating directly with employees is obvious, the messages they hear from external sources like local news media can have an equal impact on their perception of their employer. And as the golden rule of communications says: If you don’t control the message, someone else will control it for you.
A holistic strategic communications plan, including both internal and external communications strategies, will deliver the best results to help organizations engage their employees and achieve business goals. Here’s how:
1. Unified messages
When internal and external communications strategies are aligned and considered with equal importance, you reduce the chances of mixed-messages and avoid confused audiences. When the messages are consistent across all potential channels, the organization also holds a more favorable and credible reputation in the eyes of its employees and stakeholders.
Especially when a company goes through a transition, whether financial or structural – as many organizations are facing right now – it’s vital that the media gets the story right. To ensure a company is represented accurately in news stories, the company’s communications team needs to align internal with external messages.
2. Loyal employees
Good media coverage can raise employees’ morale and boost employee engagement. But regardless of whether a news story is positive or negative, consistency in owning the message is key.
A scenario – problematic and avoidable yet unfortunately still very common – goes like this: an employee returns home after a long day’s work. They scroll through the smartphone or turn on the TV and learn from the news about their company – maybe a change of operational policy or a change in leadership. The company may have simply responded to an inquiry from the local news media, but the employee was never informed of the change. They may begin to feel left out, unvalued and unimportant. These feelings can then reflect back onto the work itself and potentially lower productivity and morale.
If, however, employees see the same statement in the evening news that they heard directly from their company leaders, it will strengthen their trust in the company. When trust and morale are high, employees tend to be more productive and produce higher quality work. This requires a proactive internal communications strategy as well as an aligned proactive external communications strategy.
3. Reputation building
Most people want to be proud of not only their work, but also their place of work. When a company or a brand has good reputation, employees feel a sense of pride. This is how proactive, positive news stories can help. When we hear good news about our company, we feel good about our organization and want to be associated with that favorable image.
But it goes a step beyond employee pride. Employees are a company’s best ambassadors. When employees see or hear good things about their company on the news, they share it with friends, loved ones and the community.
4. Achievable business goals
Every organization has business goals. Some are short-term, others are long and sustainable plans for how the business can succeed and grow overtime. When employees are aware of these goals and have a solid understanding of where the company is headed, they are more likely to feel connected and invested in their work.
This clarity could also help employees see their own career trajectory, boost professional growth and ultimately help the organization achieve the larger business goals. The opportunity to enhance internal communications and employee engagement through reinforced messages in external communications can have a very real impact on ROI and the bottom line.
5. Managing the unexpected
In today’s world, companies can be – and recently, are – thrown into a new crisis at any moment. Layoffs become necessary. Protests and strikes pop up. When the unexpected happens, having a media relations strategy that is in sync with your employee communications could help turn the tide and save the company’s reputation.
During the early stages of any crisis, leaders need to make a lot of decisions very quickly. A well-thought out and well-executed crisis communications plan that integrates both internal employee communications as well as a media relations strategy could potentially save a company a lot of money and protect its hard-earned reputation.
Whether your organization is in the midst of a challenging situation, or you are focusing on a proactive strategy for the future, there is no doubt that priority has shifted internally to supporting your workforce. It is critical to remember, however, the role that external communications channels play in your employees daily lives – and for your company to have an external communications strategy that is active and aligned with your internal communications efforts.