Internal communications, designed to mobilize employees as brand ambassadors, is a burgeoning field. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer found that regular company employees are the most credible voices on a variety of topics, including the company’s work environment, integrity, innovation and work practices. This helps explain the steady growth of employee or internal communications practice at many public relations firms.
PR firms engaged in employee/internal communications understand that to get employees to engage with a brand, the brand first needs to engage with the employees. The first step to internal engagement is listening. A 2013 KRC Research and the Institute for Public relations study, Best-in-Class Practices in Employee Communication, found that a common practice of successful internal communication programs is having a feedback channel for employees. Feedback allows organizations to define internal stake holders, understand effectiveness of communication methods, and instill a business mindset in employees.
While listening is a great first step to internal communications, organizations are going much further to ensure employee engagement. According to the National Business Research Institute disengaged employees cost the US economy $370 billion annually, while engaged employees save their organizations 5% or more. Engaged employees will optimized their productivity during office hours, will not actively seek or accept positions with a new company, and will advocate for the brand.
Marla Kaplowitz, CEO, MEC, has some very strong options affects engagement of employee engagement, “My vision was to develop an agency culture that other organizations would want to emulate. The hottest talent would want to join and that would make existing talent feel engaged, committed and proud. Many companies begin with these good intentions, but as they grow, their focus narrows to the bottom line, often forgetting that it’s their people who drive success”.
A popular way organizations create employee engagement is through recognition. A 2014 Forbes article projected money spent on employee recognition alone is in the billions, “Today there is a $46 billion market for employee recognition (gold watches, pins, thank-you awards, plaques, etc.)”. Although many of the dollars and creative energy percolating into internal communications goes to in-house efforts, public relations firms are making a bigger push into these areas.
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With $46 billion at stake organizations need to be smart with their recognition and overall internal communication strategies. Public relations firms bring a unique value to this area thanks to their familiarity with social media, their experience dealing with multiple constituencies within client organizations, and their best practices regarding communication strategies.
To win with customers, companies large and small do in fact need to mobilize the army inside. Public relations firms are helping to lead the way. Internal communications also assists with change management, ensuring employee alignment with strategy, and training executives in internal communications skills, all with the goal of making the client’s organization a destination employer where people are excited to work.