Sometimes it’s not the outside world you want to talk to but your own organisation. When implementing complex policies, trying to increase awareness of a particular problem or create culture change, having your staff on board will improve your chances of success. But for them to be on board, your staff need to understand. Here we present four tips on how to run successful internal communication campaigns that will put your messages across in the most efficient way.
1. Know that change takes time
In 2019, we cooperated with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a campaign designed to promote knowledge sharing within the organisation. Knowledge is a key asset for organisations, but it frequently gets lost when people retire or change jobs. Knowledge can also be stored in office cupboards and on computers, or it is conserved by a few select people within a particular department. We knew that it would take time to make people change their habits and how they think about knowledge-sharing.
So, we proposed a multi-step internal communication campaign that would motivate employees to actively participate in a culture of openness and sharing. Over a period of two months, in the run up to ESA Knowledge Management Focus Week, we gradually built awareness among the staff members using a variety of channels and deliverables — these included postcards, jigsaw puzzles, printed and electronic posters, flyers, and videos.
2. Brainstorm, run focus groups
If you want to know whether your slogans, logos and messages catch people’s attention, test them. Brainstorm in a team, propose more ideas, then use them in a small group that represents your target audience to pick the best one.
For the ESA Knowledge Management campaign, we came up with a pool of ten creative ideas communicating the core campaign messages of openness and sharing of knowledge. We put those through several rounds of face-to-face interviews and round table discussions with a group of ESA staff members. We then chose the concept that made the biggest impact on them.
3. Know your people
Your employees are busy going about their everyday tasks. If you understand their habits, you will be able to target them in a more efficient way, using moments when they might be the most receptive to your messages. For our ESA Knowledge Management campaign, we analysed a typical workday of an average ESA employee from their morning arrival to the end of the day. We realised that traditional means of internal communication such as the Intranet and corporate emails might not be enough to catch their attention. So, we decided to bombard them with the main campaign visuals at every available opportunity. By distributing stickers, posters and leaflets in canteens, meeting rooms, entrances, corridors and even in toilet cubicles, we ensured that every staff member would be exposed to the campaign’s main visual – an icon of a brain. We hoped to stir their curiosity and subsequently be more open to the more complex and traditional means of communications, such as corporate emails, intranet articles and videos played on digital screens.
4. Evaluate and improve
Ultimately, you measure the success of your internal communication campaign not by the number of leaflets you have printed but by the change in behaviour it has produced. How can you evaluate that? First, you should have a good idea of the baseline situation before your campaign. You can use online surveys among your staff members to get an insight into their understanding of the given problem. Talk to a sample of your target audience. How do they go about sharing knowledge? Do they find it easy to access the information they need? Are they feeling lost? Then do the same after the campaign. Have they registered the messages? Did they think about them? Has their behaviour changed as a result of that? Focus on the audience groups you are the most interested in. Have senior staff members changed their attitude to knowledge sharing? Do newcomers find it easier to find the information they need? Do people in charge of big projects know where to turn to find guidance and knowledge of their predecessors?
Whatever your goal, understand that a lasting positive change takes time. Be willing to iterate and improve your campaign. Have patience. You will get there.