Effective Internal Communications Ensure Company Vitality

March 11, 2003

About the author: Walt Denny is the president of Walt Denny, Inc., an advertising/public relations agency that focuses primarily on home products clients such as Amerock Corp., KitchenAid brand, L.E. Johnson Products and Whirlpool Corp. "The Home Products Agency" was established in 1989. For more information on Walt Denny, Inc., visit www.waltdenny.com.

Rumors circulated for several months among employees at a Midwest-based technology company that layoffs were imminent due to the economy. Management caught wind of the rumors, but since it had no official plans for layoffs, made no announcements to reassure employees on the assumption that the panic would soon subside. A number of employees revised their resumes and searched for new jobs; a few people even jumped ship, taking new positions with competitors. Though the layoffs did not happen, the company lost several good people, and morale suffered due to the lack of communication. A simple, well-executed internal public relations (PR) effort such as a friendly, confident memo from the CEO squelching rumors and reassuring employees of their immediate job security could have averted this chain of events.

The importance of internal PR should never be underestimated. While many companies funnel significant resources into external PR efforts geared at gaining the support of the general public, customers, shareholders and industry and financial analysts, these same companies often overlook their most critical stakeholders--their own employees--by neglecting internal communications. Internal PR is a specialized PR discipline focused on optimizing a company's relationship with its employees by facilitating good communications between management and employees, boosting employee morale and enthusiasm, and disseminating the right information at the right time such as explanations of new plans and policies and how they will affect the organization and its employees. While an internal PR program is about sustaining a productive dialog with employees using a proven set of communications tools and activities including memos, newsletters and special events, it also requires a great deal of creativity, consistency and follow-through. But the rewards can be enormous.

Internal PR encompasses everything from informing employees about exciting company and product developments to celebrating successes and encouraging employees to meet personal and organizational goals. For instance, a fast-growing home building materials company has devised a solid plan and strategy for launching several innovative products over the next 24 months to leapfrog competitors. However, without a supportive internal PR campaign, they may find themselves behind the curve. To keep employees performing at the high level required to meet company goals, management needs to give them the scoop--and the inspiration. An effective internal PR campaign could include a series of CEO memos thanking employees for their teamwork and directing them to the company's intranet site for the latest product development details. It could also include a series of stories published in a corporate newsletter highlighting a different employee's role in product development each month. The company could even hold an offsite employee event where the CEO makes a motivational speech, dinner is catered, and awards, corporate clothing and other special items are given out in recognition of employee roles in the company's success. The result is sure to be greater loyalty and higher morale, a worthwhile pay-off.

When well-executed, an internal PR program can create a cohesive company environment by giving employees a better understanding of the organization's objectives, operations and philosophy. Monthly company-wide e-mails from the president, quarterly meetings, information-rich intranet sites, printed newsletters, corporate giveaways, incentive programs and company parties are just a few ideas--the possibilities are unlimited. Internal PR programs can vary as much as company culture, size and structure, yet all require long-term, dedicated resources to succeed. While some companies prefer to hire and maintain their own internal communications department, many choose to work side by side with an experienced PR/advertising agency that brings significant internal PR know-how to the table. A seasoned agency can help any company shine by leveraging effective internal PR strategies, plans and tools to enhance company vitality through better internal communications.

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About the Author

Walt Denny

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