Internal Communications in the Post-Digital World
“Consumers don’t ‘learn’ brands in advertising any more; they observe them through all of the behaviour that a corporation engages in, whether that behaviour is intended to be commercial or not”, says GWP Brand Engineering chair and CEO Bruce Philip. “If that’s true, then the job of branding is to give purpose to a company, not to give purpose to communications – everything matters. The post-digital world is the one where we finally get there.” (Carey Toane, Next Big Thing, Strategy, September 2009, p42).
Philip’s quote above nicely summarizes the forces that have been influencing my work-week. From the presentation we made to a client group on the strategic messaging role of corporate intranets, to the book – Taking Brand Initiative – that I just finished reading (and reviewing), to our reasons for launching the Dialogue section of the Livewire website: the round world has gone flat again with everything we do visible on the media horizon.
The implications for corporate communications are amazing; PR no longer controls the message, marketing no longer exclusively directs the brand position and every individual in the company is now in a media-facing role.
The meaning of a brand is now being negotiated and renegotiated between the public and the company with major contributions from the marketing department and brand enthusiasts. Chief among these enthusiasts are the employees in a company. Few people have as much personally invested in a brand as those whose work is committed to it.
Work is an important part of identity. Our work is our own and what we work on, we are connected to. More than simply a transaction, work is a creative function. It is an expression of the personal self, and how we spend our time defines us. To distance ourselves from that is to alienate ourselves; conversely, to be psychologically present in our work is to be engaged with it and is fulfilling (for more on this see our insight article, Untangling Engagement).
Organizational communication is one critical mediator of the relationship between an employee and brand. How the strategy is explained, how employees are recognized for their efforts, how much they feel part of the team and the organization, and how their voices are heard are all essential and profoundly human aspects of the employee/brand relationship. Facilitating this relationship through internal communications has an impact not only on the way employees participate in the brand conversation that is always taking place on the Internet, but has an even greater impact on workplace culture, employee engagement, and organizational effectiveness.