Both external and internal communication are of significant importance for business growth and performance.
Are internal and external communications two distinct entities?
Yes, they are.
IC and Corporate Communications teams have different objectives, they deliver messages to different audiences, and they support the business in different ways. But that doesn't mean they should be working in silos.
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Even though Corporate Communications and IC teams have different audiences, they should align their efforts and make sure that their messages are unified.
Did you know that the average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently is 33%?
That's where your IC and Corporate Comms teams' ability to work together play a huge role. The thing is, even though 95% of organizations have brand guidelines, only a quarter are consistently enforced.
If your Corporate Comms and Internal Communications teams don't collaborate, they're going to deliver inconsistent and mixed messages, which may lead to confusion and disengagement among employees but also among customers.
Even though external and internal communications have many differences and distinct goals, there are also a lot of similarities. The alignment among the two is absolutely crucial to create a positive organizational culture.
That's why organizations need to approach internal and external communications with a joined-up mindset.
External vs. Internal Communications
Internal and external communication are considered to be very important resources of business communication. Let’s now take a deeper look into these two types of communications.
Internal communication is information and ideas exchange within the organization itself. In internal communication, messages can be exchanged via personal contact, telephone, e-mail, intranet or modern employee communication platforms.
There are 4 types of internal communication:
- Vertical - communication between employees on different hierarchical positions
- Downward - communication from managers or leaders to employees
- Upward - communication from employees to managers or leaders
- Horizontal - communication between individuals on the same hierarchical positions
Unlike internal communication, external communication means exchange of information both within the organization itself and outside the organization.
Organizations communicate with the outside world on a daily basis. Therefore, external comms departments play a very important role in every business.
External communication can be formal and informal.
Formal external communication is the very first step in creating the appropriate company image. It includes anything from carefully created letters, reports, presentations or web pages. The main goal of external comms is to inform the outside world an important message about the work and quality of the organization.
Informal external communication is a form of communication which organizations can’t regulate directly.
During everyday work activities employees are continuously absorbing information and deepening their knowledge about the organization. Whenever employees talk about your organization to the outside world, they are a part of an informal external communication.
12 Reasons Why External and Internal Communications Need to Work Together
Even though internal and external comms’ activities may be different, they both have similar goals and need to be aligned when delivering messages to employees, customers and other stakeholders.
For a company’s success, internal and external communicators have to work together. Organizations should always try to make them as complimentary as possible. Developing messaging that motivates employees to meet their targets while uniformly enticing partners and customers ensures effective communication.
Let’s take a look into some of the reasons why external and internal communications need to work hand-in-hand to deliver better business results 👇
1. Better strategic alignment
If external and internal comms departments don’t work together as a team, it is impossible to achieve strategic alignment among various stakeholders.
Moreover, only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy and directions.
When internal comms does a good job informing employees about what external communications departments are working on, they can do a better job achieving their goals and understanding the overall business strategy.
2. Aligning brand image from the inside out
Businesses have traditionally viewed external communication as their primary focus, forgetting that their internal audiences are just as important.
It is imperative for brands to ensure there are no gaps between their products, customer service and advertising efforts and the actual customer experiences.
The best way to close that gap is by aligning the brand totally from the inside out. This means every employee must not only understand the brand promise and their role in keeping it, but also be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to actually deliver on what is expected.
To achieve that, external and internal communications teams need to work as one.
3. Unified internal and external messaging
It is not uncommon to see that internal and external messages are not completely aligned. For example, if the company shares conflicting information with its employees and investors, they may have to deal with several unhappy and unmotivated stakeholders, which could lead to bigger issues.
Moreover, organizational alignment is both internal and external comms’ duty.
Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communications says:
4. Understanding audiences
Businesses need to look at both the internal and external audiences together to have a unified and well-set communication strategy.
For example, if a company is developing its brand message, it’s essential to create talking points for both internal and external use. This approach helps creating messages that appeal to the employees and motivates them to do their jobs.
In addition, that messaging should entice company’s customers and partners.
Moreover, you have probably heard about the saying: “Treat your employees like customers.”
Unfortunately, many companies still haven’t adopted this mindset that has become crucial for business success.
As Paul Barton, principal at consultancy Paul Barton Communications says:
“You can’t take a dispassionate, dictatorial tone with your employees and expect them to deliver warm, efficient service to customers. You need to talk to your employees like you want them to talk to your customers. Audiences often don’t remember exactly what you said as much as they remember how you make them feel. That’s certainly true with employees.”
Therefore, external and internal communications need to work together to better understand their audiences and show employees that they are getting equal, or even better, treatment than customers.
5. Having everyone on the same page
External communications should ensure that IC department is aware of external campaigns and other efforts.
Furthermore, internal comms is responsible for communicating those efforts to employees.
This is the only way for employees to be on the same page and understand the goals behind those efforts.
In order to achieve this, it is extremely important to have all communication platforms integrated so that information can be easily found and shared.
6. Building trust among employees and customers
Building trust in the workplace is one of the primary goals for employers across the world.
When messaging towards employees and external shareholders, such as customers, is not unified, organizational distrust is inevitable.
Today, very few employees trust their employees, and one of the main reasons for that is because internal and external communications are not unified.
External and internal comms departments should do a better job making sure not to deliver contradictory messages to their audiences.
This is one of the main reasons why companies are now combining internal communication with PR and external communications.
7. Helping employees to become brand ambassadors
Having employee advocates is extremely valuable. Brand ambassadors can help your company get more brand awareness, generate more sales and attract more talent to your organization.
However, this becomes a mission impossible if internal and external departments don’t work hand-in-hand.
In her CMO article, Radiscka Subrammanian says:
“By investing in your internal stakeholders, you empower them to become brand ambassadors, advocates for your product or offering and determined to deliver value. Consistent brand experiences build trust and create enduring, supportable brand-consumer relationships. It is no longer enough to simply tell your brand story–you must live your brand promise inside out.”
It’s always been the case that internal stories have the potential to be shared externally. Social media platforms make it easier than ever for internal information to find its way to the outside world.
On the other side, employees will never take advocacy-like actions if they are complicated or hard to perform.
Ask yourself, do your employees have an easy way to share your content externally?
Internal communications tools like Smarp makes content sharing from employees’ personal social accounts unbelievable easy resulting in higher levels of adoption and engagement.
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8. Staying up-to-date with the company news and industry trends
Both internal and external communications departments have a job to communicate effectively trends and important events happening in the industry and the company itself.
Therefore, they should be aligned about delivering the same information to employees and customers.
Whatever you are trying to communicate to your customers, employees should be aware of it as well.
Make sure, however, about the information overflow. Not every employee needs to know everything. Too much irrelevant information has a negative effect on employee engagement.
For that reason, internal communications departments should consider implementing internal communications technology that enables employees and managers to create personalized news feeds based on interests and priorities.
9. Creating more engaging content
Employees want to know about their achievements and good results. On the other side, external communications have a lot of insights from the company’s customers.
So why wouldn’t internal and external comms work together to create inspiring customer stories?
These two departments can together create and deliver content that employees are always happy to engage with.
Today, it is not uncommon to see internal and external joining forces to create more shareable, engaging and usable content.
However, this can be extremely hard to achieve, especially at large corporations, without the right internal communications tools.
If all your employees are not connected with a single communications platform, no one can make sure that the right message reaches the right employees.
10. Creating a sense of teamwork
Creating a sense of teamwork is one of the best ways to spread positivity in the workplace.
While internal communications have a strong impact and influence on employees, external communications have it on current and potential customers.
Therefore, communications departments can connect people from within and outside the company to create great stories.
Here is an example of such efforts from Eileen Sheil, communications expert at Cleveland Clinic:
“My latest focus and one of our department’s priorities is to build "one team" by blending our communications efforts so we are a strong communications unit that is well positioned for the future.
One example of this effort is our focus on telling compelling patient stories externally that highlight clinical innovation, which can also serve as a great internal story that highlights our caregiver’s great work to help a patient.
Internally, this story focused more on the caregiver than the patient and profiled the great lengths our staff went to help those involved as well as linked to the video story. From the comments, our caregivers shared a great sense of pride in working for Cleveland Clinic."
11. Handling rapid corporate changes more efficiently
Effective change management is not easy to achieve. However, it is much easier when internal and external communications departments work closely together.
Critical company events such as digital transformation or mergers and acquisitions affect both internal and external company’s shareholders.
Often times, external comms are the first point of contact for the outside world. In many situations, these messages should also reach internal comms and employees.
Take for example, changes being implemented with your products or services. In this situation, external comms will be the first one to find out about the customer feedback, and that feedback should immediately be delivered to internal comms and employees affected.
12. Building a strong community around your brand
Your communications play a critical role when it comes to building long-term relationships with your employees and your customers.
Indeed, creating a positive employee experience and delivering a great customer service is all about communicating with your audiences in an effective way!
The thing is, the way your employees feel about their job and the company itself has a direct impact on the quality of the customer service they deliver. In other words, employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) are interconnected. Unsurprisingly, companies that lead in customer experience have 60% more engaged employees.
So, if you want to get your employees and your customers close, you need to make sure that you effectively communicate with them. Don't share mixed messages. Instead, build a consistent communications strategy where your internal and external messages are consistent.
If your employees feel that you keep some information from them or have the feeling that your corporate communications don't reflect what's actually happening at the company, they won't engage that much with your customers!
Aligning Your Internal and External Communications During COVID-19 Is More Important Than Ever
Often times, external or internal communications functions may have insights that the other side does not have at the time. That's why ensuring that your internal comms and corporate comms teams work together is even more important in times of crisis such as COVID-19.
You won't be able to build a solid and effective business continuity plan if you don't align the messages you share internally with the ones you share outside your organization.
Think about it: how can you build trust among your teams and make sure that everyone works towards the same goals during the pandemic if your internal and external communications are not aligned or even worse, contradictory?
In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the last thing you want for your employees and the wider public is to feel confused or skeptical about your messages.
Mixed messages lead to disengagement. The coronavirus pandemic has created fear and confusion. Many people have lost their jobs and are concerned about their health. More than ever before, your brand has to be transparent and emphatic.
You have to tell the truth and inform both your internal and external audiences about any strategic decision that may impact them. Having your employees learn from journalists about any business decisions you've made is one of the scenarios you absolutely want to avoid.
That's why you need to make sure that your internal communications and corporate communications teams work together. That's how they can build a solid and consistent communications strategy so there's no gap between the messages you're sharing with your employees and the ones you're sharing with your external audiences.
The COVID-19 crisis is challenging comms professionals and their ability to work together. While businesses tend to focus their communications efforts on the messages they want to deliver, they now have to focus on their audiences' needs.
However, important information means nothing if it doesn’t reach the right people. Internal communications solutions such as Smarp, help organizations prevent crisis by ensuring that the right information reaches everyone who needs it.
How Internal Communications Tools Can Help External and Internal Alignment
Aligning different stakeholders in the organization is impossible without the right internal communication solutions in place.
If internal and external departments are unable to quickly reach all employees at the right time, misalignment will happen.
Therefore, corporations should now consider implementing solutions that connects all employees and enables them to have an easy access to information related to both internal and external world.
With employee communications solutions such as Smarp, organizations are able to:
- Reach all employees regardless of their location
- Share urgent COVID-19 updates with their employees
- Avoid confusion and the spread of rumors during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Create and share more engaging content to the employees
- Make all the content easily shareable with the outside world
- Prevent the spread of anxiety during the crisis
- Support two-way conversations with employees
- Help employees keep important documents, messages and conversations in one place
- Enable employees to have instant access to information on their mobile phones
- Better filter and prioritize content delivery to prevent information overload.
What's next? Download the eBook “10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications” where we share tips & best practices for successfully communicating with your employees in today's digital age.