The Key to Internal Communications People Will Remember: Think Like a Marketer!

I’m in marketing, and once you start seeing things with a marketer’s brain, it’s hard to turn it off.

So when I think about internal communications, I can see that most of us are not doing a particularly good job. Which is why most of us, when we get an email or memo or video that’s sent to a big chunk of the company, kind of…tune out. We skim it. We’re skeptical. We forget what it said within ten minutes, and then shamefacedly ask obvious question a week later when we can’t actually remember what we were told.

In short, we can all be doing internal communications a lot better.

“But,” you might be saying, “I’m NOT in marketing. I’m in HR, or legal, or finance. Or I’m the department head at a university or the shift manager at a factory. I don’t want to make some kind of advertisement, I just want my team to listen to what I need to tell them. What does this have to do with me?”

Here’s the thing. The art of marketing is the art of getting people’s attention, and then convincing them of something. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here. Too often, we treat our employees like an afterthought, because they HAVE to listen. But we all know the truth. Just because people know they’re supposed to read the email from corporate communications doesn’t mean they’re actually going to pay attention. You need to treat your employees like an audience.

So how can we make our internal communications, especially our internal communications videos, better?

Your Call-to-Action

The first step is what marketers call the “call to action”. This is the thing you want people to do after they’ve seen your message. It might be that you want them to feel inspired to beat next quarter’s projections. Or maybe you want them to participate in the 401k. It might just be that you want them to stop leaving their leftovers in the communal fridge until they grow mold. It’s surprisingly easy, though, to tell people a bunch of information and forget to make it clear what you want them to DO with this information.

So remember to ask yourself why you’re communicating in the first place. And if your answer is just something like “because I want them to know this,” then ask again. “Why am I making this video?” “Because I want people to know that the company parking policy has changed.” “Why do I want them to know that?” “Because starting on Monday, I need them all to park in the new parking lot assigned by sticker.” Know in your head what concrete action you want people to take after watching your video, so you can make sure you target your message to get them to take that action.

Your Audience’s Interest

The next step is to put yourself in their shoes. It’s not enough that you want them to take this action. Figure out why THEY would want to take this action. You want them to switch to the new travel system because you need to shut down the old one. But THEY will want to switch because the new one lets them submit receipts from their phone. Make sure your video makes it clear why this information is important to them personally.

Now that you’re clear on WHAT you want them to take away, and WHY it’s in their interest to do so…it’s time to think about how you’re going to package this information. Now, you want to keep this simple, and you want to keep it short. People are busy. But it’s worth trying to make it interesting to get their attention.

Your Story

In journalism, and now content marketing, you have what’s called a hook. It’s the first idea that gets presented, that helps your viewer decide whether or not they want to continue watching your video. It might be an anecdote. Or you could try introducing a problem and promising a solution. It might be a surprise, or just offering to tell them a story. Your first five seconds need to give them a reason for continuing to watch. Don’t waste it stating your name – start right off with something that will grab your attention. Then follow through on your promise. And make sure by the end, they know what their call to action is!

Why Will They Open the Email?

Now that you’ve got your video idea, you still need to make sure they actually watch the video. Congrats, you need advertising. If you’re sending a video message by email, you’ll want to pay attention your subject line and email text, the same way marketing thinks about the emails they send to potential clients. If you’re doing a live event like a webcast, you’re going to want to send them a proper invitation, that explains why they want to attend and what they’re going to get out of it. (Maybe even include a short video trailer!) If you’re posting a video on the intranet, you’ll want some kind of notification or social buzz to let people know there’s something new to watch.

Don’t assume that just because people are obligated to look at your message that they’ll actually pay attention to it or perform your call to action. Do them the courtesy of remembering that you can’t actually make anyone give you their attention. Court them. Give them a reason to think what you have to say will be interesting and will help them in some way.

You’re Not Done Yet!

Then after the video goes out…don’t forget about it. Have a follow up communication planned, to remind people to do that call to action. If the message is worth the trouble to communicate in the first place, it’s worth planning a mini-campaign to make sure the action you wanted actually gets done.

And don’t be afraid to repeat yourself! We sometimes think that just because we’ve said something once, that everyone will remember it. After all, it’s fresh in OUR minds, so they must have heard it, right? But remember how many different communications people get every day, from so many sources. Emails, texts, videos, advertisements, from immediate coworkers, the administration, family, friends, other companies. If it’s really critical, it’s not a bad idea to say it again, in different ways, to make sure your message really gets through. In advertising, they say a viewer has to see an ad SEVEN TIMES to remember it.

That’s Too Much!

Whoa, you didn’t sign on to design a full marketing campaign. Well, for routine stuff, it doesn’t have to be quite this elaborate. (If you’re making a big internal shift, though, and really want to get people to change your behavior, then you do need to pull out all the stops.) But I guarantee – take an extra two minutes before you start recording your video or writing your email to ask yourself “Why will they actually pay attention to this? How will I know they paid attention?” Then see how much more effective your internal communications can be.

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