The Secret to Successful Internal Initiatives? Treat Them Like Marketing Campaigns

By Greg Ricciardi


These days, the need for business leaders to break down silos doesn't just apply to traditional and digital marketing departments or cross-channel attribution initiatives. Rather, today's brands need to be fundamentally rethinking how they define, position and message against their purpose — both externally and internally.

It's no longer enough to conceive and execute brilliant customer-facing marketing and communications campaigns. If the message behind your company's "why" isn't being understood, embraced, and lived inside your own walls, it won't survive long on the outside.

That's why modern business leaders need to be applying the same discipline that they do in their external marketing initiatives to their own internal communications — and well before a company's story starts being told outside its own four walls.

Let's take a look at why we need to treat internal communications more like consumer marketing campaigns — and what this looks like when done successfully.

Internal Culture Goes External

When it comes to company culture and how businesses engage with their employees, there's no such thing as "behind closed doors" anymore. The attitudes, insights and experiences of a company's employees define the way a company is perceived and how it operates within the market.

For dated organizations that operated under a "churn and burn" mentality of employee relations, that simple fact has already led to the demise of many. But for future-focused business leaders, the opportunity to nurture and amplify internal values and then breathe them into the marketplace as an organization's customer-facing persona is tremendous.

When it comes to your company's purpose and internal initiatives, the process of creating awareness, deepening connections, and driving action is just as important among your own people as it is among customers and prospects. As with any external marketing campaign, successful internal initiatives and communications are a circular process. Here's what that looks like:

Research needs and sentiments: To be effective, a company's purpose and major initiatives require hands-on investment and involvement from the executive team, but that doesn't mean ideas and missions should originate on high. Companies need to establish formal processes, and platforms even, for employees to put forth their thoughts on a company's direction and needs. When leaders sit down to prioritize projects, this input should be their starting place.

Build plans: Leaders need to establish processes to both qualify and quantify the internal feedback they receive as it relates to employee and marketplace needs alike. But, equally important, they need to formalize the process by which they act on that feedback.

Message those plans in a consistent, creative way: As company leaders translate ideas into reality, particularly when it comes to establishing a company's purpose and building out internal initiatives that align with it, they can't forget the most important component to success: marketing those initiatives internally. Forget the standard company-wide email or mandatory all-hands meeting.

This is where the consumerization of internal communications comes in: As marketers, we know that creativity and multi-channel messaging, including powerful media like video, are what it takes to truly connect with today's consumers. Your internal initiatives deserve and demand the same kind of firepower. When companies consumerize their internal initiatives, they're crafting the types of messages that their employees — who are also consumers — are used to encountering in their day-to-day lives, meaning they're far less likely to dismiss them as they would a run-of-the-mill internal memo.

Listen and respond: Finally, don't forget to close the feedback loop, just as you would on any good external marketing campaign. Pay attention to the response to your internal communications, actively solicit ideas for enhancement, and commit to continuous improvement when it comes to your internal initiatives and driving your company's purpose forward.

On the agency side, we spend a lot of time helping clients put this guidance into action for their organizations and employees. While it can be hard to find the time to practice what we preach, we know it's important to do the same for our own people.

That's why, a couple of years ago, we established an internal platform called The Forge, dedicated to helping employees to establish and track their personal priorities and growth from a business perspective.

At the same time, the insights derived from this platform, which also handles our performance management, peer reviews and mentoring processes, are invaluable in understanding the expectations and goals of our people — and thus, invaluable in helping us to establish internal programs to meet those expectations and goals.

Great companies and brands connect with consumers through thoughtful, purpose-driven marketing campaigns. But the greatest of the great are the ones that connect with their internal stakeholders in precisely the same way. This is where we all need to be heading as business leaders in the modern, purpose-driven era.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Greg Ricciardi is the president, CEO, and founder of 20nine.