Why internal comms should think like marketers

In today’s disconnected workplace, keeping employees engaged and aligned with company values and purpose is as essential as it is challenging. Could the answer to upgrading your employee engagement strategy lay in thinking like a marketer? What can internal comms learn about the art of engagement from the marketing playbook?

Woman doing photo shoot

Internal comms as internal marketers 

When you think of marketing, what comes to mind? You likely think of marketing to customers, getting your brand or product in front of people and motivating them to make a purchase – the art of persuasion.  

But another, equally important “market” is your employees, the people behind the brand that make your business come alive and deliver your customer experience.

By targeting your employees, internal marketing is just another way of approaching internal communications, aiming to help employees build a powerful emotional connection to your purpose and vision. This marketing mindset treats your employee audience like any other, allowing internal communicators to adopt best practices and strategies to engage colleagues just as effectively as a marketer would with prospects. 


How to engage employees like customers

Are you looking for new ways to engage employees and transform internal communications? Maybe it’s time to start thinking like a marketer. Learn how to bridge the gap between internal comms and external marketing in this webinar with Unily and HubSpot.

Watch on-demand

Below are just some of the stats that show why bringing a marketing mindset to internal comms can be so impactful:

How internal comms can think like a marketer

There are a number of core marketing techniques that have been tried and tested over the years to drive customer engagement. Here’s the lowdown on how to apply these principles to engage employees.

#1. Content is king

As all good communicators know, content is your greatest asset. The phrase “content is king” rings true internally and externally; it’s the bread and butter of internal communications and inbound marketing alike. As such, there’s a wealth of tactics and best practices that communicators can take from content marketers to improve their own employee engagement strategies.

Content marketing is effective because it provides audiences with value. Content that doesn’t solve the target audience’s problem, offer solutions, or inform the reader simply won’t garner attention. As internal communications compete for employees’ attention, they must also offer clear value.

The value of critical communications, like business and crisis updates, is evident, but how does your culture-focused content benefit your audience? Communicators must take the marketing mindset and break down their approach: ask ‘what benefit does this content offer?’ ‘What information does the employee need to know, and how will this help them?’ ‘What kind of culture are we looking to build, and how will this content help engage my audience with that goal?’.

Supercharge your internal communications guide flat pages


How to supercharge your internal comms

In today’s workplace, effective internal communications are vital to business success. Engaged employees are a company’s greatest asset, but with the workplace transforming at pace, the way we communicate must adapt. This comprehensive guide offers a collection of insights to support internal communicators to supercharge their strategy for the future of work.

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Another key aspect of content marketing that equally applies to internal communications is consistency. A marketer that publishes five pieces of content in a week, and then nothing for another two, isn’t going to see the same results as one that may produce less but keeps a consistent stream of content in the pipeline. For internal communicators, where employee trust contributes to overall engagement, this is especially true. Set steady goals for delivering content and maintain tone of voice across your comms. This builds an element of reliability into your content, as employees can come to expect and anticipate it.

Take care of your content

If content is your most valuable asset, then that also means that your content needs to be managed properly. While people’s trust in media, in government, and in social media is at an all-time low according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses have become the most trusted source of information.

To maintain this trust and engagement with comms, content creators must continue to act as guardians of information quality. The accuracy and relevance of comms have never been more important, so proper governance and content review cycles must be a top priority.

However, a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communications, translating to an annual cost of $520k. For a global enterprise this cost grows exponentially.

Content review score on iPad for easy intranet content governance

Content review lifecycle features help combat this time drain by notifying owners when content needs updating, automatically tracking and unpublishing unreviewed content, and providing easily digestible reviewal scores to determine the accuracy of your comms at a glance.

#2. Master channel strategy

The other side of the content coin is context. You might have heard the phrase, “if content is King, context is Queen.” That’s because, without the right delivery mechanism, your content can’t land with your intended audience.

Marketers fly on the wings of a multi-channel approach that pushes content out through social media, email, display ads, billboards - the list goes on. A successful channel strategy can make the difference between thousands of people seeing your content or just a handful, and the same goes for internal communications. 

For internal communications, mastering your channel strategy means reaching across your workforce and meeting people where they work, where they want to consume content, and where they’re most likely to engage with your message. Whether that’s through social feeds, Teams and Slack channels or mobile push notifications, internal comms should look to integrate valuable channels into their strategy, rather than asking users to return to their inbox or intranet for every update.


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#3. Put a premium on personalization

As we mentioned before, content is engaging when it provides value, but different people value different things. A lack of content relevancy is a leading cause of comms disconnect. 70% of millennials are frustrated with brands sending irrelevant emails, and 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized for them. These frustrations translate from marketing to employee comms so easily because our expectations of content is shaped by our experiences as consumers.

ICs and marketers both compete for our attention, and so we expect the same value and relevancy from internal communications as we do external campaigns. To meet these expectations and cut through all the noise, internal comms must embrace targeting and personalization.

"At HubSpot we use the inbound method, which is really all about attracting your customers with valuable content and experiences that are catered to them. It’s so similar to the work you can do internally with the employee experience, it can all really be geared towards specific audiences and meeting them where they are."

Kassandra Mendes - Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot

Internal communicators can build out key personas from demographics within the workforce to tailor content and target communications towards. Frontline workers, for instance, may respond better to a mobile-first approach, where shorter, bite-size content can be pushed via social feeds, Teams and Slack groups, and push notifications to reach through the most effective channels. They may also value different content to that of an office worker, so newsletters and campaigns can be tailored to deliver information they need. You can also use two-way comms channels, like social feeds and comment sections, and run frequent pulse surveys and forms to keep your finger on the pulse and incorporate feedback for greater relevancy and channel targeting over time.

#4. Plan and automate slick campaigns

In marketing, campaign thinking is all about building engagement and brand recognition over time. The first time someone sees your brand likely won’t be the moment they decide to make a purchase, in fact, general marketing wisdom finds that it takes at least seven touchpoints before someone takes action.

Marketers achieve this consistent reach with automated campaign technology, which has become the backbone of modern digital marketing. It’s also one of the reasons why employee expectations of content and user experiences are always changing. The result is that, today, internal comms is expected to orchestrate complex, highly targeted campaigns across all channels.

This is where technology has historically failed internal communicators. To achieve the same number of touchpoints within the workplace would typically require seven pieces of content all driving the same message. With some of the least loved tech in the enterprise stack, internal comms has been left to compete against marketing automation technology with the equivalent of sticks and stones. But, Engagement Automation is changing this, bringing the same campaign-building technology behind the firewall for the first time.

Engagement Automation multichannel comms campaign

With Engagement Automation, you can plan, schedule, automate, and measure campaigns all within your intranet from one easy-to-use hub. By bringing together market-leading analytics and workflow engines, Engagement Automation provides an automated route to slick, marketing-grade comms campaigns that organically build engagement over time. You can even set goals for engagement and trigger events like reminder notifications or emails to follow up on employees yet to clickthrough to your content.


How to engage employees like customers

Are you looking for new ways to engage employees and transform internal communications? Maybe it’s time to start thinking like a marketer. Learn how to bridge the gap between internal comms and external marketing in this webinar with Unily and HubSpot.

Watch on-demand

#5. Tell your story

If you reduce marketing down to its essence, it’s fundamentally about storytelling. Marketers find problems their target customers experience and sell the story of how their products solve that problem.

Brand marketers craft brand stories. Account-based marketers zero in on target customers and sell them a personalized story. Content marketers create content that speaks to prospects with - you guessed it - stories.

If internal communicators can learn anything from marketing, it’s that stories speak louder than facts and information. Employees, after all, are people. And people crave narratives.

'How to make your employee comms go viral' feature image


How to make your employee comms go viral

Engaging employees means fighting for their attention and your comms are going up against social media heavyweights and the best marketing minds. So how do you create consumer-grade employee comms that stand out, engage, and spread like wildfire?

Learn more

So don’t copy out bullet points from the latest CEO update, or just ask people to join charity initiatives – tell the story behind these changes and programs. How is that recent update going to affect things for your colleagues? What’s the intended impact of the latest change, what are the benefits of your goal? How is your charity group helping your community, and how much have you already achieved?

This doesn’t mean every piece of comms needs a beginning, middle, and end; you don’t need to write prose to tell a story. To truly engage your audience, you just need to go beyond the facts of the matter and give some context, add some meaning, and tell a story.

#6. Experiment with media

Marketers love an A/B test almost as much as they love buzzwords. For the uninitiated, an A/B test is a way of experimenting with two different approaches to content, like a new email subject line or CTA, by splitting their audience in two to measure the results of the change.

This way of approaching engagement brings two key benefits: First, it allows you to continuously improve and learn what does and doesn’t work. Second, it provides insight into the preferences of your audience, backing this up with data you take into your next campaign.

This testing mindset can be easily implemented internally, and the first focus for communicators should be with media. Is your all-company monthly update more engaging as an article or as a video? There’s only one way to find out – try both!

Unily native media player audio podcast on iPhone lock screen

Give employees various options for consuming content. Offer articles, short form videos, and audio transcripts, then look back over the viewership results and engagement stats to see which resonates best with your audience.

Perhaps you’ll find that, as the success of TikTok suggests, people prefer 30 second to minute-long videos to get their updates (it’s not just for social media, even 60% of executives prefer short videos!) Perhaps you’ll find an even split across the lot, with mobile users preferring video and audio and desktop users preferring written word. Whatever the results, this experiment will teach you more about the wants and needs of your audience than guesswork ever can, and lets you carry those lessons over into the next piece of content.

Supercharge your internal communications guide flat pages


How to supercharge your internal comms

In today’s workplace, effective internal communications are vital to business success. Engaged employees are a company’s greatest asset, but with the workplace transforming at pace, the way we communicate must adapt. This comprehensive guide offers a collection of insights to support internal communicators to supercharge their strategy for the future of work.

Get the guide

#7. Data defines everything

Marketers live and die by their metrics. Even campaigns with impressive creative and genuinely ground-breaking ideas can fall by the wayside if they don’t convert or catch the eye. Modern marketing is intrinsically tied to data, and this relationship to analytics is something internal comms need to adopt, too.

But measuring success has been a persistent challenge for internal communications for many years – it’s hard to quantify things like culture and engagement.

Hard, yes. But not impossible.

Building data and KPIs into your engagement strategy is an important step on the road to better communication, aligned employees, and an engaged workforce. Much like marketers use data to prove the success of campaigns and channels, internal comms can use data to work out which actions, strategies and decisions best correlate with success.

This is how KPIs can work with strategy to help internal communications make data-driven decisions, but specifically which KPIs will help you achieve this?

Building blocks


Internal comms KPIs you should actually care about

Measuring the success of internal communications is a persistent challenge, but tracking KPIs gives you a window into what works and what doesn't. These are the KPIs you should focus on when it comes to employee engagement.

Learn more

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