Capturing and retaining the attention of your employees is no easy task. If you have something important to get out, building a creative internal communications campaign can engage your staff and make the message stick.
Whether it’s an impending business change, the launch of a new product, a new process or business tool: there are a wide range of critical messages we need to push out to our employees. But in today’s digital workplace, cutting through the noise is no simple task.
Customer-facing marketing campaigns are all around us, and for good reason. They capture attention, deliver a focused message, make companies memorable, and leave a lasting impression. They incite us to action.
Executed well, a creative campaign can deliver the same returns inside our organizations.
Communication campaigns are campaigns that use the media, messaging, and an organized set of communication activities to generate specific outcomes in a large number of individuals and in a specified period of time.
While many internal communications teams may not necessarily have the same budget and resource to hand as a full-powered marketing team, that doesn’t mean we can’t pull off creative and eye-capturing campaigns that deliver results.
Here’s your guide to executing a winning internal communications campaign in 10 simple steps.
14 steps to great internal communications
#1. Set a clear objective
A successful internal communications campaign has a clear goal.
A campaign is a series of connected efforts, designed to bring about a defined result.
Before undertaking any creative efforts, set out precisely what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking to inform, educate, trigger a particular action? Have you been tasked with telling the whole business about a major business change such as a merger or acquisition, or perhaps with boosting interest in your forthcoming charity fundraiser?
Whatever the brief, try to define the outcome you’re looking for as specifically as possible: including a timescale, and any measures for success. Beginning with the end in mind will ensure your campaign is focused and delivers the desired result.
#2. Identify and define your audience
Who are you targeting with this message?
Even if senior management task you with the blanket “inform all our employees”, as every internal communicator knows, our audience is hugely diverse. This will impact on how you design and execute your campaign.
Set out clearly who needs to receive this message and break down their different needs, behaviors, circumstances. Consider their demographical traits, such as age, location, role and digital fluency. What motivates them, frustrates them? How do they prefer to receive information, and what content or messages do they tend to engage with?
Our in-depth blog on creating and using personas in internal communications is a handy step-by-step guide to help you figure out who your internal audience is, and how to target them.
Defining audience personas and being clear about who you’re targeting will enable you to craft a tailored and more empathetic message. This, in turn, will improve their response and engagement: making your internal communications campaign more effective.
#3. Figure out the ‘WIIFM’ factor for your audience
The importance of your message may be obvious to you, but it’s not a given for your audience. Now you know what it is you’re trying to say, and who to, it’s time to answer the question – ‘why should I care? What’s in it for me?’
This means stepping into the shoes of your audience and understanding what the impact is for them as an individual.
Give your employees the bits they’re most interested in.
Your frontline staff probably aren’t too fussed that a merger will boost company revenue and profitability, for example; they’ll be more concerned about job security, process changes, disruption to their day-to-day roles.
Go beyond the ‘what’ and take an employee-centered approach. This means that for every piece of information you look to include in your campaign, you should be answering ‘what this means for you/how this benefits you’: giving your employees the bits they’re most interested in.
14 steps to great internal communications
#4. Map out your channels
We have a diverse range of communication tools at our disposal in our workplaces: whether that’s our Slack and Yammer channels, the corporate intranet, video-streaming a town hall meeting, or the more traditional methods of company-wide email and posters by the watercooler.
Not every channel will be appropriate for every campaign. Feed in your audience research: how do they tend to consume their content? Are you looking to engage frontline workers who primarily use their mobile devices, or office-based staff who can be engaged with canteen digital signage?
The more channels you utilize, the greater the impact: and the more likely it is your message will actually stick.
Consider the nature of the message itself. For major business change communication that is likely to trigger a reaction from staff, for example, a company-wide email may be regarded as cowardly and won’t enable staff to ask questions or voice concerns. And is a one-line SMS going to cut it when you’re announcing a major piece of news when staff are likely to want the full story. You may need to consider bite-sized initial messages that then signpost staff to further information.
With a diverse audience, a multi-channel approach may be the best way to go. The more channels you utilize, the greater the impact: and the more likely it is your message will actually stick.
#5. Define your plan of attack
Here’s where the creativity begins. With the what, who and the where defined, you can start thinking about the how.
Depending on the nature of the campaign and the message you’re getting out, you can afford to have a little fun here.
For example, are you going to drip feed the information over a period of time in a bid to ease your staff in? Perhaps you want to build a bit of anticipation and ‘tease’ staff with nuggets or snippets that only hint at the main message, before the Big Day? Or perhaps you’re tied to an official announcement date, and need to get everything ready to go live at once?
Creativity in action: International Federation of Accountants
The International Federation of Accountants used a teaser campaign to hint at the imminent launch and arrival of their intranet, LUCA.
Named after an Italian 15th Century Friar and Mathematician commonly referred to as the ‘Father of Accounting’, Luca, Pacioli, the intranet also embodied a full persona and character.
Ahead of the launch, the internal communications team decided to have a little fun and tell the staff nothing – secretly gathering content and using an internal focus group for employee input.
Two weeks prior, posters began to appear. They had minimal details, no hint of an intranet – and immediately caused intrigue. Staff began responding with a sea of guesses, requests, and inquiries, all wanting to know – ‘who or what is LUCA?’
On Launch Day, all was revealed. Staff were greeted by a 72-inch, motion-activated, talking cardboard cut-out of LUCA, inviting them to a luncheon. Staff were introduced to their new intranet, receiving an overview and training: with fantastic attendance, as staff were keen to have their curiosity satisfied!
14 steps to great internal communications
#6: Get creative
You’ve done the groundwork: now it’s time to get the creative juices flowing.
Like any marketing campaign, yours should have its own mini brand around it. Great campaigns are typically an offshoot of their parent brand but have an element that gives them their own identity.
So, your internal communications campaign will align to your internal brand, but have a ‘certain something’ that helps it stand out. Staff should be able to see a banner on your intranet, a separate poster in the canteen, and a message on your company Slack or Yammer channel, and be able to tell that they’re all connected.
Outside the box additions to your campaign can pack a much-needed punch and help your message stick.
Consider creating a tagline or the core messaging for your campaign. If your business uses social channels, a designated #hashtag will help staff follow what’s happening. Perhaps you want to designate a particular image, icon, typography, or color to your campaign. Just one single element that is repeated across all campaign materials can provide that much-linked consistency and link.
Outside the box additions to your campaign can pack a much-needed punch and help your message stick. For example, online retailer ASOS decided to launch its new intranet using an online video overview; to get staff involved, they also gave each individual a bottle of water, popcorn, and a pair of earphones ‘for the show’.
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to personalized goodies, the basics can still be surprisingly successful. Housing provider Curo refreshed its intranet in 2018, and opted to give every member of staff a pack of Refresher sweets on the day it went live. Simple, but effective.
#7: Tailor and personalize
Personalization, as we know, wins.
You have a message, a brand, channels, a planned approach. When it comes to actually producing your campaign materials, it’s worth revisiting your audience research and the ‘WIIFM’ factor to fine-tune your internal communications campaign to different staff personas. Personalization, as we know, wins.
This could mean, for example, that your frontline employees receive an app notification/SMS alert and in-store maildrop of goodies or further information, whereas your head office staff get an email or Slack notification pointing them to a page on your corporate intranet.
Tone, language used, and level of detail may also vary according to the staff you’re targeting. Do senior-level managers need to be given different information to the individuals they manage, so they’re better equipped to answer questions? Perhaps you’re announcing a new process that some staff need to be fully trained on, whereas others need to just be made aware of it at a top level?
14 steps to great internal communications
#8: Plan out D-day (or week, or month…)
Whether you have a campaign launch date or activities are planned over the course of weeks or even months, it’s time to put your project manager hat on and get organized.
Even a simple calendar or tasklist can work wonders to ensure everything gets off smoothly. Map out what needs doing, when, and who by. What resources or support do you need? Are there approval or sign-off processes that could cause potential delays? Do you need to place orders or work with third-party providers, and what timescales do they work to?
Consider how and when to publish or distribute your campaign. Unlike consumer-facing campaigns, you’re unlikely to see much interest outside office hours. If you already have internal communications tools that come with analytics, check out peak times for traffic or usage.
Do your staff log on and browse your intranet during their lunch hour, or perhaps the Friday afternoon slump? Knowing when to hit for maximum impact can increase your chances of success.
If you have the ability to time delay communications – to get everything uploaded, proofed and ready with a future publication date – this can take some pressure off on the big day.
#9: Go LIVE!
It’s time. Press publish, click send, post the update.
If you have a defined action you’re looking for staff to take as a result of your internal communications campaign – whether that’s to sign up for an event, to read and acknowledge a new policy, try out a new piece of software, or perhaps update some personal details – ensure the call to action (CTA) is clearly displayed and explained.
Have signposting options in place for staff to find out information or get help if needed, including named individuals to contact. As a key stakeholder in the campaign, being on hand to field inquiries is probably a good idea. Even in today’s digitally-driven workplaces, human interaction is crucial!
#10: Get feedback and measure success
Never underestimate the value of measuring success.
While your internal communications campaign may not come with a six-figure budget and require a 10-page report on the return on investment generated, internal communications teams are increasingly feeling the pressure from the C-suite to demonstrate value. Proving your worth and demonstrating outcomes can help secure buy-in, budget, and resource.
Obtaining feedback can also provide insight into your audience, channels, and approach: helping you learn from what worked, and what didn’t.
Success will look different depending on what your internal communications campaign objective was. Metrics to consider may span click-through and open rates of an email, completion of a particular workflow or process, registrations to an event and more. Refer back to your original goal. Did you realize what you set out to achieve?
Consider adding anecdotal or soft ROI measurements to your plan: asking your staff directly what they felt worked well, found engaging, or responded to. The more data you get, the more your learn: and the better your future campaigns become.
And there you have it. 10 steps to plan, design, and execute an internal communications campaign that will wow and win over your employees.