In the past, internal comms was seen as a standalone entity, separate from other areas of messaging. A siloed approach was common, and an internal communications agency would often have little to no involvement in other areas of a brand’s messaging.
Since then, however, the world of comms – and indeed, the world at large – has become more complex. Internal comms and employee engagement, employer brand, stakeholder communications and external marketing all overlap, as businesses strive towards creating a coherent and coordinated brand. Agencies that offer internal comms expertise alone must adapt to this new reality.
Arguably the most seismic change to stakeholder comms in recent years has been the shift to remote and hybrid working, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data published by the ONS, between September 2022 and January 2023, 40% of workers surveyed had worked from home at least once in the past week, compared to just 12% in 2019. We’ve seen a huge shift in our working patterns, which seems here to stay as the memory of enforced lockdowns recedes. As a result, good internal communication is more important than ever.
As the world has moved even more online, the pace of technological change has accelerated. One consequence of this is the growing importance of omnichannel marketing. Businesses are seeking to cultivate a presence and develop campaigns across an increasing number of online (and offline) communication channels, from social media to the metaverse. On the other side of the coin, these platforms also provide more opportunities than ever before for companies to stand out from the crowd and engage with stakeholders more effectively. In this environment, the importance of a consistent stakeholder communicaton plan and messaging across all communication channels and platforms is amplified.
Another factor has been the growing emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in recent years. These issues are important for employee engagement, and to investors, clients and prospective candidates alike, and a consistent approach across all channels is crucial for developing a reputation of authenticity. ESG issues are also often complex, and developing content around them across siloed teams and agencies is a communications challenge.
The importance of co-ordination
Internal comms, employer brand and external marketing are becoming increasingly interlinked because they all affect how a business is perceived by its key stakeholders. A consistent and coherent message across these areas will enhance an organisation’s credibility, while a mismatch or contradiction between them can create an image of untrustworthiness.
A strong internal brand, which helps employees to fully understand a business’s values and objectives, informs and supports external messaging. In other words, a company must understand itself before it can effectively tell its story to others. This is why integration is key.
One example might be if a business projects a strong commitment to sustainability in its external marketing and employer brand proposition, but does not reflect that in its internal communications strategy. In this situation, the business would be left open to accusations of hypocrisy.
Developing an effective communications strategy
Internal comms is no longer a standalone entity, but an integral part of a broader stakeholder communications strategy. Thanks to changes in working patterns, advancing technology and a growing focus on ESG issues, the world of comms has become increasingly complex. These changes have increased the need for consistency and coordination across all types of comms, from internal messaging and employer brand to external marketing and stakeholder communication.
A siloed approach to internal comms is no longer effective. To add value, agencies must adapt to this new reality and offer a more holistic and integrated service to their stakeholders.
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