The Best External Marketing Resource Comes from Within
When companies and organizations think about ‘marketing,’ the conversation almost always concentrates on the best methods to get the word out about products and services. Smart marketers, however, know that an inward focus is equally crucial.
“A former boss shared, the number one mistake employers make is not realizing their most important asset walks in and out their door every day,” said Nicole Cottrill, vice president of client services and business development for Nashville-based Seigenthaler Public Relations.
“It’s easy with the external audiences,” Cottrill added, “They’re very clear revenue drivers.” However, she continued, it’s the internal audience … your employees … who can really make or break your message.
Keeping employees in the loop serves a number of functions. Cottrill said that morale is certainly a major issue. Those who feel like they are an important part of the overall team are vested in the organization’s future and its success.
There are also a number of other pragmatic reasons to provide staff with information before sharing it with the world. Knowing what new services or products are coming online helps prepare employees to answer questions. Seeing a new ad campaign before it is launched gives employees a head’s up so they can reinforce the message. Even copying the staff on a press release or public service announcement goes a long way toward making sure internal and external messages line up. An engaged, informed employee, noted Cottrill, becomes a meaningful ally in improving the patient or customer experience.
Internal communication as a two-way street also benefits the leadership team, which typically isn’t as hands-on operationally as frontline employees. “Your really miss out on a lot of great information,” Cottrill said of organizations that don’t actively engage staff members. “It’s the employees who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of your business. If you’re not engaging them, you’re missing out on their feedback.” She added the healthcare industry is filled with examples of employee-driven quality initiatives, improvements and product development.
Perhaps the most important reason to make internal communications a point of importance, though, is because employees are the face of the organization even outside of business hours. “Employees really are your ambassadors to the outside world,” emphasized Cottrill.
Word-of-mouth marketing happens all the time and is incredibly powerful — both in a positive and negative manner. Cottrill noted there are many ways providers or companies are promoted after hours — the neighbor who asks the nurse next door for input on a good specialist … the church nursery volunteer who mentions the new service line at the practice designed for young mothers … the dinner guest who proudly tells about the state-of-the-art cancer center his hospital has just launched … or the golfer who tells his buddies about all the bells and whistles on his firm’s integrated EHR software.
“The internal communication strategy is really a way to help educate people,” Cottrill said. Depending on the size and culture of the organization, effective communication could come through electronic or print newsletters, e-mail, intranet, town hall meetings, posters, or even a letter from a manager or the CEO.
“The greatest blessing and curse of internal communications is you have so many options,” Cottrill said. “At the end of the day, the specific vehicle is less important than making sure you are consistent.”
She concluded, “A mission and a vision aren’t stagnant. Those words don’t mean anything if you don’t work to breathe life into them. Internal communication is one way to do that.”