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Innovative internal communications get better results


Use blogs to communicate with staffTim Moore and Breda O’Connor discuss how spending some time improving your business-to-employee communications can drive your organisation forward and enhance your employee engagement strategy.

New media technologies, Web 2.0 and experiential marketing techniques are changing the way brands communicate with consumers. Today, simply asking them directly to buy into your brand will no longer suffice and instead companies need to engage the customer through conversation if they want to build genuine brand equity and company loyalty.

The same principle should be applied to internal communications and to inform HR strategies. As it currently stands, employers tend to focus on the carrots – good pay, strong working environment, health plans and benefits. However, carrots seem to lose their effectiveness over time and furthermore, they do not impact on the importance of staff culture or morale.

That is why, with the advent of digital technology, companies should be reassessing how internal communications are implemented. Take, for example, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz. Instead of email he regularly engages in online conversations with employees through blogs. Not for PR purposes but because he finds it an effective and transparent way of communicating with staff rather than sending an impersonal ‘dear all’ email.

“Blogs, peer-to-peer networks and chat rooms all create the sense of an open community between colleagues.”

In this instance, Schwartz illustrates how employers should be finding new ways to communicate with staff and how utilising engaging and entertaining formats can encourage collaboration.

Blogs, peer-to-peer networks and chat rooms all create the sense of an open community between colleagues, stimulating commitment and promoting appropriate behaviours’ throughout the business.

But more importantly, companies (especially new start-ups) have broken down the stereotypical hierarchy by encouraging feedback from the bottom up, instead of issuing directives from the top down – a principle which is perfectly epitomized through the collaborative mechanism of Web 2.0 and the advent of social networking.

Entertain the staff

So how should companies best use new communication tactics? In essence, by treating employees as a consumer you are not automatically assuming you have ‘buy-in’ from staff. It’s therefore safe to say that companies need to engage and even entertain employees in order to ‘activate’ and generate the desired response.

Recently, Playgroup developed an internal communications programme for BT Business to ensure delivery of the new external campaign fronted by Peter Jones and the Gremlins. The ‘Do what you do best’ campaign makes promises including 24/7 support for IT and communications needs, a single point of contact for your move and answering calls within 30 seconds. As such, BT Business is positioning itself as IT and communications experts for the SME market.

Before the campaign launched it was imperative that the sales teams and customer service staff understood the next stage of the brand campaign and why BT were evolving to talk about how service can help customers do what they do best.

BT needed them to be able to deliver the key messages to clients and prospects. Furthermore, they had to feel motivated by and empathise with the campaign. As a result, the premise of the campaign centered on engaging staff by having them ‘experience’ the new brand positioning.

To drive the campaign, MD of BT Business Bill Murphy recruited ‘activators’ via SMS message. These ambassadors helped ensure effective implementation of the communications. Staff turning up for work were greeted by a huge outdoor advertising campaign around their office premises and were also met by certain desks and areas of their office cordoned off as crime scenes where IT equipment had been ‘attacked’ by IT gremlins. This created a tremendous amount of hype and excitement amongst staff.

Staff were also asked to attend a video briefing, but rather than be subjected to information overload, they watched their MD introduce Peter Jones as the new celebrity entrepreneur as the face of the campaign, and during the briefing staff witnessed a humorous situation where their MD was attacked by the IT gremlins.

Questions were soon answered when a viral video was leaked. It was CCTV footage released on You Tube that could prove the gremlins were behind the chaos and as a result, a BT Support Squad was formulated to solve any technical issues due to the 80’s rogue monsters.

Key messages

The experiential activity ultimately drove employees to a microsite where they were incentivised with campaign and gremlin-related prizes to enter a quiz. The quiz ensured that throughout the ‘chaos’ staff had understood the key messages that were to be delivered to the SME market. The innovative and involving programme was well received with 89% of staff saying they were clear on the key messaging they were required to deliver.

“When launching a new product or service, it’s vital that the external campaign is supported internally.”

As a company that is in the business of communication, it was important to recognise the advantages of collaborative marketing and peer-to-peer communication. As such, utilising an integrated campaign that included experiential tactics and the latest in new-media techniques, the campaign was quickly disseminated throughout the company, and not being hierarchical, it became engaging and unintimidating.

No longer were the sales messages being fed through a management structure and drip fed to staff, instead it was actively involving staff in the education process through entertainment and as a result built genuine brand equity with the employees.

BT Business also understands that its staff are its greatest brand ambassadors. Therefore when launching a new product or service, it’s vital that the external campaign is supported internally. If a customer service or sales team is suffering from information overload or are cynical about change, they can undermine any marketing campaign regardless of the budget that’s been invested.

Therefore creating two-way dialogue that builds trust between employer and employee is why BT Business and its HR department places so much importance on it internal communications.

Breda O’Connor, head of HR at BT Business, says:

“At BT Business internal communications is key to the success of our overall employee engagement strategy, it is part of our DNA. We realise that employees can only work effectively if they are part of one team, they can only be part of that one team if they are fully informed. Therefore it’s vital that communications are transparent and convey the overall objectives of the organisation. As a result our employees understand and believe in our vision and the part they play.

“By changing our approach to communications, understanding our diverse audience, being more targeted, and using entertainment as a hook we are increasing our employee engagement within the organisation. The internal communications and marketing teams have opened a forum that enables employees to give open and honest feedback. We continually encourage feedback. In fact, we encourage feedback from all levels. The culture we want to foster going forward is one where we are open with each other, ideas are listened to, concerns are addressed and employees truly feel part of the business. In turn we make the most of the talent within BT Business.”

Tim Moore is managing director at brand equity agency, Playgroup, and Breda O’Connor is HR director at BT Business.

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