Written by Prarthna Thakore

Over the past two years, flexibility, agility and being responsive to the ever-changing landscape have been the name of the game for most internal communicators. As organizations evaluate the future of their workplaces, communication teams will need to innovate and renew their strategies to ensure people remain included, engaged, connected, and continue to advocate for their brand.

How can internal communications teams navigate their current landscape, adapt their strategy, and reach people where they are?

By taking a cue from their counterparts in marketing; Start with the audience first.

Why your audience matters

When developing campaigns or launching a new website, marketing, and their external communications team should take stock of who their audiences are, create personas, and map out user journeys.

A recent study from Haiilo shows that only 13 per cent of employees use their intranets daily, but it’s often the go-to channel for communications teams. It’s fair to say that most marketing campaigns wouldn’t be spending time and money on a tactic that only reaches 13 per cent of consumers.

In contrast, the same study shows that 74 per cent of employees have the feeling they are missing out on company news. Taking just these two stats in tandem reveals a challenge, but more importantly, an opportunity.

Here are four simple steps you can take to take an audience-first approach to internal communications.

1. Gather your internal data

Embark on a discovery process.

Start by linking up with your colleagues in Human Resources (HR) and Information Technology (IT). Review the annual employee survey data and get a deeper understanding of your employees’ demographics, location, and job function.

2. Listen to your people

It’s time to dive a little bit deeper.

By launching a survey or dropping in on team meetings, you’ll discover how employees currently engage with corporate communications, stories that inspire them. Look at channels they engage with the most, both internally and externally. The convergence between internal and external channels is sometimes blurred, and your organization’s communications strategy could be missing out on some serious real estate if you’re not tapping into existing channels they actively engaging with.

3. Map out your data and start to segment

Start this step by breaking your demographics into groups.

Describe who they are, their attributes and their motivators. Try mapping your data into word clouds or pie charts for a graphical representation. Present the data in a way that allows you to better understand how to reach your people, and how to buck the trend when it comes to shared challenges.

4. Create your personas and apply them

Now you can bring this data to life.

Develop four to five personas, putting names and pictures to them. Go beyond the workplace, envisioning their life outside of work, topics that interest them, and channels they engage with.

Once you have the personas created, start testing against a past internal communications campaign. Imagine you have your personas in a room as a focus group, and ask questions like “What do they like about the messaging and what would prompt them to act?” or “What’s falling flat for them, and are you appealing to their unique attributes?”

It’s time to take a marketing and an audience-first approach to internal communications.  Use these four steps to better refine your communications before your next campaign launch. Paired with a willingness to meet employees “where they are”, this approach will be key over the next few years as we continue to navigate the challenges of a hybrid workplace. In summary, if well-planned and executed, you can increase employee engagement and most importantly, ensure your people will never miss a beat.

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