Here’s what I have learnt about internal communications
Over my years working in-house for a law firm and in legal PR consultancy, here’s what I have learnt about internal communications.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of an internal communications strategy: Your firm’s employees are its most important ambassadors and retaining top talent is key to success. Yet so often internal communication is neglected. Instead, a law firm’s resources will be put into gaining a profile in the media and engaging with the client audience and communicating with employees is often an afterthought.
It’s important not to underestimate the importance of engaging with your people. Employees who are happy in their work, who know and believe in the values of the business they are part of and understand their role in its future success will aid staff retention, drive cross-selling and encourage word-of-mouth referrals and recruitment.
- Make sure your internal brand reflects the external brand: Attempting to project an image to the market that demonstrates you are innovative and cutting edge, for example, will not be successful if the employee experience is of a more traditional, fusty firm. Media profiles of your managing partner outlining his or her strategy for the growth of the business will not be worthwhile unless the internal audience recognise how this is being put into practice and the part they have to play.
It is worth taking time to think about what you want to achieve with internal communications and the messages and values you want to convey. This needs to mirror your external communications strategy.
- Planning and preparation are key: Consider the major announcements and events happening over the year, whether they are regular occurrences such as partner promotions or salary reviews or one-off changes such as office openings, mergers, leadership changes or restructures which will need careful handling. This should all be part of your internal communications strategy.
Ensure you work closely with departments across the firm so that you can coordinate communications around areas such as human resources, IT and business development.
- It isn’t a one size fits all approach: Think about the method of communication that will work best for your organisation. This will depend on the resources you have to devote to internal communications, the size or the business and its location.
A smaller firm will find it easier to facilitate face-to-face communication compared to a firm with offices all over the country or elsewhere in the world. Some firms may have a lot of staff who work away from the office, perhaps from home.
It’s important that communications are not sporadic, so be realistic and only put in place regular communications that you know you can continue to deliver.
Options to look at might be a dynamic intranet front page where regular stories can be posted, podcasts, email newsletters, films, enterprise social media networks, blogs and face-to-face communication which remains the most effective way to get your message across.
- It’s important that communication is a two-way street: Internal communications is not just about pushing information out to staff. People want to be able to put forward their views and know that they have been taken on board. Ensure there is a forum for gaining feedback from employees from across the business, at all levels.
- Your internal communications programme should evolve and change: Gaining feedback from employees will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your internal communications and whether you are achieving your objectives. You can also look at intranet click-through rates or conduct an annual survey of staff to get their views.
Particularly in times of rapid change, don’t be afraid to react and modify both the content of your communications and the methods they are communicated by if the feedback you are getting suggests things aren’t working.
Whatever the size of your organisation, ensuring consistent, regular and reliable internal communication that conveys your strategic aims and brand values is key. Creating a work community with a sense of belonging and working towards common goals will contribute significantly to the success of your business.