Sitting at a conference last spring full of corporate internal communicators, I realized that while the mission these communicators are on is starting to take hold at Fortune 500 companies, it remains less prevalent in many smaller firms.
Some business owners have told me that their firms are too small to worry about a formal internal communications system; they've said they don’t think their employees would be interested, anyway.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter what size your business is; employees always prefer transparency. Some thoughts on how to achieve it:
1. Start small.
You don’t have to roll out a super-sophisticated intranet in order to build an internal communications program in your firm. Start small, with a monthly newsletter. This is what Mary Ellen Sheets, the founder of Two Men and a Truck, International did when she started TMT back in 1985. She faxed out a few pages of a newsletter to her franchisees, reminding them of the franchise rules, as well as sharing best practices across franchises. That newsletter grew into a nice, glossy magazine, and today, TMT has a comprehensive website and blog where it shares best practices among its 320 locations, which over 30 years have moved five million people.
2. Think big.
Employees do care about every aspect of your business, just as you do. So, don’t just share the good news; share the complicated news, too. This is what Ted Castle of Rhino Foods did. When he found that his employees were not paying close attention to the losses in his company's brownie mixes, he showed them how those losses impacted the bottom line for him, and for the company as a whole. That was a big thing for him to share, but it made his employees take ownership in even more aspects of the business.
3. Share widely.
Employees really do want to be involved and knowledgeable about your business. Everyone wants to feel valued and a part of things. So show your employees how much you value their contribution by sharing information widely. Let them know, for instance, when you get a new customer. Let them know when one has left -- and why. Let them know when changes are coming, and how it will impact them.
This is what Dennis Quaintance of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels did when he had to close one of his restaurants. Instead of just closing the doors without notice, he let everyone know ahead of time, and helped those workers find jobs at one of his other hotels or restaurants. He explained why it was time for this particular restaurant to close, yet reassured his employees that they were valued and needed elsewhere.
Internal marketing, then, starts with thinking of your employees first and making sure that they feel that they are an important part of your organization. When that happens, you will figure out the best way to openly share information, to create a transparent culture.