5 Ways To Raise Your Internal PR Game

Earlier this week, we made the case for raising your internal PR game. Today, we’ll suggest some ways to do just that. The technological and social changes over the past few years have both made internal communications more important, and also opened up opportunities to revolutionize it. Still, companies are dragging their feet in this aspect of corporate communications. 60% of employers have no long term IC strategy or vision. The Conference Board reported that while 90% of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, fewer than 50% understand how to address this issue.

5 ways to raise internal PR standards

Consider technology tools

In 2017 McKinsey found that only 17% of companies report investing in some form internal communications technology. One of the reasons for the corporate reticence may be the overabundance of tech comms tool choices. Nobody wants to check intranets, social platforms, email, text and instant messaging apps to be engaged with their employer. Experts urge the use of a single employee communications platform to prevent fatigue. But take note, IC (and IT) managers: it’s imperative that the technology be optimized for mobile operating systems. According to the 2018 State of the Sector on Internal Communication report, 67% of employers plan to up the usage of mobile apps in the next year. Any internal communications program’s success will hinge first on employee participation; using apps that are painless to access on mobile devices will help ensure engagement.

Omni-directional communications

The days of leadership announcing new policies with a memo or email are over. Employee engagement comes from the ability to speak and be heard. The open, free-flowing exchange of updates and ideas in the form of an employee suggestion platform tends to produce measurable results. But not only should communications flow up and down the hierarchy, it also should flow laterally. Installing a peer-to-peer recognition program can encourage engagement and boost morale, and if shareable, it can help with recruiting by demonstrating transparency and engagement. Employees can be top-flight brand ambassadors when interacting with external stakeholders using their own content.

Employee-generated content

Cisco found that employees’ social posts generate eight times more engagement than posts from their employers. Since employees are a more trusted source than executives, it’s best to create opportunities for them to lead discussion on owned and shared media. Encourage staff to post about topics they have interest or expertise in. Launch an employee advocacy program that fits the company culture. The program should make it fun to share stories about company personalities, new products, or CSR programs. There are even tech platforms solely for employee advocacy and content sharing, most notably EveryoneSocial. Platforms like this not only store employee-generated content, but they set goals and measure KPIs. However, allowing employees to share content about the brand comes with challenges. Not only does it take creative vision to motivate employees to want to generate and share content, but there are also dangers inherent in allowing employees to advocate for the brand online — the guidelines for which must be clearly outlined in a formal social media policy.

Internal comms should be easy on the eyes

It will come as a shock to nobody that video is becoming an almost ubiquitous employee communications tool. Whether to convey business objectives, new initiatives, or company values, video beats the traditional lecture format. An elevated application of video technology is found in the not so new practice of gamification. Gamification, the use of gaming elements in non-game concepts to enrich content, is simply a tool designed to boost engagement by making education or instruction fun and interactive. Powered by engagement platforms like BunchBall, scorekeeping, stats, and quizzes are Trojan horses in which to painlessly impart important info or influence behavior.

Face-to-face still works

All of these digital powered internal PR tools are so great that it might be easy to forget about the all critical face-to-face employee engagement programs. Offsite charity projects, company-wide summits, employee socials, and training workshops foster a sense of camaraderie that is key to engagement. Further, in organizations where remote work is the new normal, these in-person company interactions help preserve a company culture with real employee buy-in.

Today’s workforce wants to be engaged, to respect and be respected by their employers, and to have fun doing so. None of the above methods come easily or without significant investment of time and resources. Unquestionably, if these tactics are thrown together without creative forethought, they will likely miss their mark. Like any other PR program, an ambitious internal communications program requires strategy, planning, and measurement. The IC initiatives should be executed according to a detailed plan, and in full alignment with overarching PR objectives, company values, and branding.

8 Reasons To Raise Your Internal PR Game

It can be easy for a corporate PR team to neglect a critical aspect of business communications — internal PR. Sometimes the last stakeholders on the minds of senior management are those inside the organization. In certain cases, high-profile companies take it for granted that employees are corporate cheerleaders, or they may leave the responsibility for employee engagement to HR. Yet employee communications is correlated with business success. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace, companies in the highest quartile of employee engagement experience 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales, and 21% higher profitability than others. Need more? Here are some additional reasons for a company of any size to raise its employee comms game.

8 reasons to invest in internal PR

Rise of the remote workforce

A 2018 IWG survey indicated that 70% of workers work remotely at least one day per week. Although remote work can help drive up employee satisfaction, it can make building a cohesive culture difficult. Internal communications initiatives that foster engagement become even more critical when colleagues are spread across the city, or even the country. Programs like “work-together days“, summits, social outings, and training sessions can help keep a workforce connected and engaged.

Employees have great ideas

A company with a two-way communications infrastructure – and a culture that encourages employee expression – can sometimes get solid business ideas from the workforce. It’s no coincidence that Amazon was named #1 best place to work by LinkedIn this year, while also being lauded for its prioritizing employee engagement. Amazon’s intranet site has a “virtual idea box.” It produced one of the company’s greatest innovations, the Amazon Prime program, after an employee suggested that loyal customers should enjoy free shipping.

Internal comms drives good customer service

As most business people know, it costs five times as much to capture a new customer than it takes to keep an existing one. A company that boasts stellar internal customer service are leading by example, inspiring (and teaching) employees to provide great external customer service. Additionally, happy, loyal employees are more likely to care about giving great customer service. Acknowledged customer service king Zappos is also known for its employee engagement – and consequently was ranked for seven years straight on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For lists.

Internal comms makes employees happy

According to Glassdoor Economic Research, the culture and values of the organization are the largest predictor of employee satisfaction. But the culture and values aren’t best communicated through a new employee orientation booklet. If a company can inspire employees to believe in and be proud of its purpose and ethos, then employees are more likely to become brand ambassadors. Most employees want to be part of something positive and authentic. Further, if employees know they’re being heard by way of structured two-way internal communication channels, they will become more engaged, and thus happier.

Internal comms is a great recruiting tool

With unemployment under 4% and a restless millennial workforce always on the move, the competition to recruit and retain talent has become intense. According to CareerBuilder, in 2018 forty-five percent of HR managers currently have jobs they cannot fill because they cannot find qualified talent. Plus, potential recruits, many who are digital natives, have a wealth of online resources for researching companies. Therefore, companies competing for talent need to have a positive online presence, including employer reviews like those found on Glassdoor. Online reviews aside, engaged, content employees are more likely to bring in good candidates, and their employees are more likely to share pride in their company on social media. In 2013, General Electric embarked on a program to make their employees brand ambassadors – for the express purpose of recruiting.

Employees are credible influencers

Since we are now in an era of eroding trust in corporations, it’s critical for companies to earn confidence wherever they can. The ultimate byproduct of excellent internal communications is the creation of brand ambassadors who will proactively speak on behalf of the company and its products to friends and family members. Passionate employees who have buy-in will gladly spread the word, and that word carries influence. According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, the employee voice is considered more credible than that of the CEO, by 52% to 49%. Companies who neglect to cultivate communication, engagement, and brand ambassadorship are missing chances to boost reputation and trust.

Internal communications drives revenue

All of the above IC advantages can lead to competitive advantage in the marketplace. Employee brand ambassadors drive customer service, recruiting, retention, reputation — and revenue. Aon Hewitt’s annual Trends in Global Employee Engagement report estimates that every 1% increase in a company’s employee engagement translates into an almost 1% increase in sales.  The car manufacturer Audi claims to have saved $133 million dollars in 2017 by implementing some of its 10,000 employee suggestions.

Disaffected employees can undermine a corporate brand

Improving staff morale can also neutralize a negative. Nearly one in three employees say they don’t trust their employer, according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. A well crafted internal PR program can help open up communications and help leaders earn trust. Employees can only become valuable influencers if they respect and appreciate the company.

Most professional communicators know that employee engagement is key to increasing morale, managing crises, and building a unified company culture. A thorough employee-directed communications program is no small undertaking, but the benefits are exponential. In a full-employment economy and a media environment dominated by peer-generated content, any corporation who neglects its workforce as a key constituency is sacrificing opportunity and even risking its long-term reputation.

Global PR Trends And Practices In An Age Of Uncertainty


Every two years, the New York-based Corporate Communication International (CCI), conducts an in-depth survey of senior PR and communications officers at Fortune 500 companies about global PR trends. As a sort of “state of the communications field” analysis the CCI Corporate Communication Practices and Trends Study 2017 offers fascinating insights about the PR landscape today.

Speed Kills

Perhaps the most striking trend is the speed of the news cycle and pace of business. Since the digital mediascape is constantly changing, communicators must be agile and always ready to engage in a digital-first environment. Yet they’re aware that the cost of a mistake or a simple overreaction can be high. Any crisis communications team must be ready to respond at any hour to an escalating event, and that speed is vital. Communications professionals must act decisively to safeguard corporate reputation, and many worry that they may miss something.

“Corporate communication functions as the conscience for the business and as a vigilant lifeguard for the brand.”

The Age Of Uncertainty

The speed of the news cycle is compounded by today’s environment of mistrust and uncertainty. And the rules for wading into controversial or political issues are less certain than they once were. Economist Milton Friedman famously said that corporations’ only purpose is to make money, and that they therefore have no social responsibility. Fifty years later, the pressure on corporations to take a stand on politically charged issues is growing. The current Delta Air Lines vs. the NRA and state of Georgia saga is a perfect example of the delicate balancing act of creating and maintaining a company’s ethos – and the real world ramifications of doing so.

“ You must assess a situation quickly and determine a course of action quickly, often ahead of all the facts being known. That requires a high level of trust among senior leaders to launch without all the approvals knowing there is a desire and expectation to own and guide the story.”

C-Suite Turf Battles

As the external environment has grown more challenging, so has the corporate environment. The overlapping roles of corporate communications and marketing and dissolution of silos in some organizations have not always been smooth.  CMOs and CCOs (chief communications officer) jostle for influence within the corporation. Marketing departments often have significantly larger budgets than communications, yet the CCO’s voice must be just as persuasive.  Moreover, CCOs cannot control those functions that have the potential to exert a large influence over corporate reputation, like HR and advertising. Since corporate reputation has a large role in the success (or failure) of the enterprise, the CCO must serve as a strategic business resource and counsel to the CEO, even when in reactive mode.

“Reputation management as the #1 perceived role of corporate communication.” 

Focusing Inward

Another global PR trend in the Fortune 500 companies is the increased focus on internal communications. Corporate leadership recognizes the critical importance of getting everybody on the same page – no easy task in organizations with 20,000 employees. And since a single employee can talk about the company to thousands of external stakeholders at once through social media, the company must take steps to control its narrative. Over 80% of companies now have an employee social media policy. Companies realize that its employees should be the first line of brand ambassadors; therefore they must understand corporate brand values and how they translate outside the organization.

So you want to be a PR executive?

The good news is the communications profession is flourishing. Staffs and budgets are increasing. Corporate recruiting of communications professionals is now a priority. But what talents do publicly traded companies value in public relations pros? It’s not enough to be a well-trained expert communicator; you had better know business and the language of business. About 25% of the communications executives surveyed have MBAs. Because communications now bleeds into so many departments, the higher-ups must have a firm grasp of business strategy. It’s not just press releases and media training. It’s also about globalization, data analysis, and PR as a strategic business function.

Is There A Good Way To Break Bad News?

It can fall to PR specialists or other professional communicators to deliver information that will surely spark anger and resentment, not to mention negative media coverage and potential community impact. As an internal email explaining a planned workforce reduction by Microsoft recently showed, it’s not easy to deliver bad news.

In the Microsoft case, a longwinded memo begins with the casual salutation, “Hello, there,” and proceeds to outline business unit strategies and plans in painful detail. Five jargon-bloated paragraphs later, it mentions consolidation. It’s not until the ninth paragraph that it cuts to the chase – the elimination of roughly 12,500 positions.

Presumably, the internal note was not the only communication prepared for those affected, but the memo has been justly criticized as an example of how not to break such tidings.  But, is there any good way to deliver bad news?

The answer is no. But there are some techniques that can make the experience, and the impact, less awful. Here are a few of them.

Be direct. Whether the news is spoken or written, the direct approach is best. Obfuscation, excessive rationalization, or delaying tactics will only increase the anxiety among all parties. It’s best to rip off the band-aid first, then follow with a brief rationale where it’s relevant (and it usually is.)

Acknowledge the impact. The news typically isn’t about the one who delivers it, so focus on the impact to those affected. There will be anger, resentment, and possibly sorrow. These are expected reactions and should be respected.

But don’t overexplain. It’s moderately helpful to communicate the business reasons behind unwelcome changes like layoffs, but prolonged or detailed explanations can actually rub salt in the wound. Again, excessive focus on the bearer of the news isn’t really constructive when someone is grappling with a punch to the gut.

Don’t try to PR it. This is not the occasion for the silver lining. Even if you’re convinced that everything will turn out for the best, and that the change could even be a hidden blessing, resist the temptation to go there.

Offer a second meeting or communication with mitigating news or options. Depending on the degree of mitigation that the company can offer, many experts advise waiting to deliver news about possible updates, such as opportunities to apply for other positions at the company. This is because the negative news will overwhelm any positive nuggets and they are likely to be wasted.

Expect all news to become public. Anything that is spoken will be repeated (and possibly distorted), so the news should be confirmed in writing. But know that anything in writing will be shared or leaked to those outside the company, including the press. So the communications should be very carefully crafted and should not contain any information that is confidential or sensitive.

Focus on company goals.  The sad fact of business is that the health of the enterprise must always trump the fate of individuals. In any public communications, company management should remind stakeholders that the decision was made with long-term corporate goals in mind. This is unlikely to make the news any easier for those who are negatively affected, but it’s relevant to other audiences.

Be professional. Spend the necessary time to have a proper conversation, if the communication is in person. Acknowledge your own feelings of regret, but keep things professional at all costs.  Even if your news is met with tears, anger, recrimination, or insults, remind yourself that none of it is personal, and behave accordingly.