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Consumer Grade

The merger of internal and external comms has already happened. Are you playing catch up?

Amongst the hot button topics in our industry, generational perception and tolerance has been a keen focus for me over the past few years and I’m often asked to talk to brands about the right approach to remain relevant to this complex, diverse and switched on audience. Musing on this recently, I realised that these requests, on the whole, tend to fall into two categories: how to tackle it for internal comms and how to tackle it for external comms. The problem that has become ever more apparent to me is that, the very audience these brands are trying to reach see little or no distinction between the two. In fact, I argue that we’ve gone past the tipping point of tolerance and for our younger team members, internal and external messaging that doesn’t have parity in quality of content AND production is not a mild annoyance, but actively damaging.

There are numerous pieces of research, not least the Deloitte Millennial Survey, indicating that millennials see no difference. They expect the company they work for to treat them with the same respect and diligence they treat their customers. Conversely, when consumers want answers from a brand on policy, product or purpose, they show little to no hesitation in haranguing employees of the company themselves on social media. The expectation is that your people should be able to reflect and repeat your brand messages, be they internal or external. In fact, they are now one and the same.

Perception Vs. Reality

A piece of research we conducted last year entitled Perception vs Reality, exploring the gap between internal and external messaging, indicated how far we must go to catch up with the expectations of audiences today. Of the 200+ comms professionals we surveyed, 78% believed that the company they worked for presented itself as innovative or market leading in innovation to customers or clients, however only half felt they actually had the tools to be innovative, 58% said they do not have the right tools to do their jobs effectively and 58% said that their day-to-day experience at the brand does not match the picture painted by external communications. This is worrying. Comms professionals are the custodians of message, of culture and in 2019, of brand purpose. If your own comms team isn’t buying what you’re selling, and they are your sales team, then there are icebergs looming ahead.

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Be Afraid, be very Afraid

Fear, risk aversion and death by committee are obviously limiting progress towards true parity in this arena. We are still having conversations with brands in 2019 about developing smartphone-led communications for staff. Two recent internal comms surveys I carried out for brands showed that 93% of people under the age of 24 engaged with zero internal comms. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Their reason? They won’t interact at all with comms unless they are delivered via their phones. We shouldn’t still be having this debate in 2019, but we are.

The Price of Success

So what can we do? There are some hard truths for many organisations to face up to, but it starts with unifying all comms functions across the business and unifying budgets at the same time. The question of cost is a huge barrier to internal and external parity, so organisations need to ditch the idea that one is cheaper sooner rather than later. The content you create for the external market should be easily repurposed for internal use and vice versa. This approach saves money and tackles the issue head on.

A quick way to assess your own health in this area is laid out in our whitepaper. Create a list of all the channels, touchpoints and technologies you provide to your customers for engagement. Can your own employees engage with you in the same way? If they can’t, it’s time to introduce those systems. 77% of millennial and Gen Z audiences say that they are unlikely to remain with a business for more than two years if it does not allow them to use the latest and greatest technology. How much will it cost you to create consumer grade comms for your team and how much will it cost in recruitment to recruit, retrain and retain new talent every time this prophecy comes to pass?

By Callum Gill - Head of Insight and Innovation

"The expectation is that your people should be able to reflect and repeat your brand messages, be they internal or external. In fact, they are now one and the same."

Our own Worst Enemy

It’s a no brainer really, we need to act now to create a flat comms function in our brands to attract and retain the best talent and encourage longevity in customer relationships. The main barriers to achieving this are structural and process led, not budgetary or technological. We are the architects of our own successes and failures here, so let’s have internal and external messaging unify and build something better together.