Both external and internal communication are of significant importance for business growth and performance.
Moreover, internal and external communications have to be aligned when delivering messages to the employees and the external world. For that reason, the lines between internal and external comms are becoming very blurred.
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 an efficient organizational culture.
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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 look into the main differences between the two.
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. Making employees 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.
8. Staying up-to-date with company 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. Preventing and managing crisis
Often times, external or internal communications functions may have insights that the other side does not have at the time.
Sharing that valuable information is powerful for preventing and managing critical and unpredictable situations within a company.
Therefore, internal and external departments should make sure to share important information and deliver it to appropriate stakeholders.
On the other side, 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.
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. 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.
12. Handling 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.
How Internal Communications Tools Can Help External and Internal Alignment
Aligning different stakeholders in the organization is impossible without the right internal communication solutions.
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 internal comms solutions such as Smarp, organizations are able to:
- Align internal and external communications efforts
- Reach all employees regardless of their location
- Create and share more engaging content to the employees
- Make all the content easily shareable with the outside world
- 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
- Be more efficient in crisis and change management
Schedule a demo today to see how Smarp can help you optimize your communications efforts.