Internal communications – communicating to and within your own teams – is an oft forgotten element of a marketer’s toolkit but is a critical one.  After all, your staff are your ambassadors, your supporters and (perhaps) your captive audience.  If you can’t win them over, how can you hope to win over external audiences?

At the best of times, your staff need to know what is expected of them, how they contribute to the organisation as a whole and to feel engaged, listened to and valued.  At the best of times…. Without doubt, we are all facing enormous uncertainty at the moment but it’s a situation that spotlights internal communication more than ever.  Whether you suddenly have teams working remotely, or staff who have been furloughed, or teams pivoting to work with the tremendous efforts of our health service, now is the time for meaningful communication within your business.

Here are four principles to ensure that your internal communications at a time of crisis will be what you and your staff need them to be.

Be genuine

We are all pretty aware these days what ‘guff’ looks like so, first and foremost, ensure any communications with your team are honest and genuine.  We have probably all been inundated with emails from supermarkets, banks, mortgage companies and so on about how they are doing their best to ‘be there’ for us during this difficult time; call me a cynic, but it starts to look like businesses jumping on the bandwagon or an excuse to market to me when I’d opted out.  You don’t want your internal messages to be tarred with the same brush so be sure to communicate when you have something to say that is of genuine interest (for everything else, see my final tip).

Be positive but don’t sugar-coat it

Undoubtedly staff morale will be all over the place just now so people will want to hear encouraging news.  However, we are all grown-ups and will spot a mile off if you’re just trying to keep us sweet.  A business not facing reality (at any time) looks like a business that doesn’t understand what’s going on.  (“Crisis? What crisis?”) Positive does not mean only sharing good stuff; positive can also mean sharing challenges overcome or clear plans for the future.  Staff will want to know how the business is coping, to hear what new practices are working and to understand that they will have a job to come back to.  Don’t patronise your staff and respect them enough to trust them with reality.

Provide practical information

One of the biggest emotional challenges we all face at present is the sense that the situation is entirely beyond our control; we are all passengers and – as yet – we don’t know if we are passengers on the Titanic or Queen Mary 2.  One of the most useful things we can do, therefore, is help people to find things that can be within their own control.  Whether that is signposting them to some wellbeing coaching, giving them access to some online training or asking them to get involved in a new project they can do from home, sharing practical advice and activities will be welcome.

Think about frequency

How often you communicate with your staff is a bit of a ‘Goldilocks’ problem; how much is too much and how much is just right?  The reality is that you won’t get it perfect for everyone (“you can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of time, but you can’t…” it seems somehow appropriate to be quoting Winston Churchill).  So focus on the quality of your message first and foremost (coming back to being genuine, above) and think about facilitating people to communicate with each other for the time in between.  Could you create a staff webpage that signposts to all sorts of support and advice that people can refer to at will?  Could you set up a regular ‘coffee break’ online session that people have the option to dial into?  Internal communications do not always have to come from ‘the top’; keeping your people talking to each other is just as vital, especially now.

Stay well everyone.