A unified voice
In the wake of the pandemic, we can finally put to bed the old adage that internal communications is the poor relation of external relations.
Faced with a world turned upside down, organisations have leaned heavily on IC to provide their employees with reassurance and support, effectively putting the discipline in the spotlight and demonstrating to all just what a transformative tool it really is. In fact, change that may have taken years in normal times has been achieved in mere months in large part due to IC, such has been the extraordinary set of circumstances we’ve been living through.
Now, as decision-makers adjust to a post-pandemic world that’s the same, but different (take hybrid working, for example), perceptions of what’s needed and what’s possible from communication – inside and out – are being reappraised.
This much is brought clearly into focus by the findings of a survey of 504 CEOs or board members at major UK companies, each with upwards of 250 employees and annual revenues between £50 million and more than £500 million.
Commissioned by W&P parent, Definition Group, the survey sought to understand how businesses will change their communications aspirations and priorities as well as informing thinking on the shape of services required. The survey was conducted over one week in May by Censuswide, the global research agency.
Critically, the survey did away with the traditional assumption that internal and external communications exist in entirely separate spaces, instead addressing both on an equal footing and as part of the same conversation.
In the resulting insight report – ‘A unified voice’ – over 95% of respondents indicated that they would need to rethink their communications in terms of strategy, methods or frequency, as a result of the pandemic and its implications.
There was also resounding support for the assertion that an informed and engaged workforce will create a more productive and successful business, with just 0.6% claiming otherwise. And this upside is tangible with better customer service, more secure client relationships, enhanced commercial growth and better staff retention cited among the benefits.
Naturally, it follows that effectively communicating organisational ‘purpose’ to colleagues and customers was another priority for leaders (98.5%) with many ensuring that this is reflected in all their communications (32.1%) and practical activity, such as community support (29.2%). Just 0.8% felt that it was enough just to chase profit.
There are, however, clear concerns for the future. The prospect of hybrid or remote working having a negative impact on business was a very real worry for leaders (73.8%). At the same time, this was countered with recognition of the potential benefits, such as a better work-life balance leading to increased productivity (32.9%).
With so many of the old rules now in tatters, the report also raises the potential of something that has been hiding in plain sight for years – the closer alignment of internal and external communications. Not only are both different sides of the same coin, but each seeks to address many of the same issues critical to future success, such as reputation and trust. In fact, the whole thing comes full circle when you consider the need for a positive interaction between frontline staff and customers.
All of this just underlines the ability of organisations to supersize the benefits of communication through a joined-up, holistic approach. It’s something that Definition Group has been looking closely at, the result of which is ‘insideout communications™’.
More than a model, this harnesses the multi-disciplinary skills and expertise of the Group’s 50 staff across its four member agencies and is delivering integrated and innovative campaigns for clients in diverse sectors of the economy, in the UK and internationally.