Internal Communications: Often Overlooked

Takeaways from the PRSA Employee Communications CONNECT18 Conference

internal communicationsDespite studying communications in college and working in the field for 25 years, I didn’t truly understood the value and nuances of internal communications until three years ago, when I moved into an internally focused role. After decades of doing media relations, marketing communications, community relations, social media and other externally focused communications, I was excited to shift my focus to internal audiences.

Most of the information about public relations – academically and beyond – covers external communications. To dive into the world of internal communications, I put on my learning hat and started devouring information on workforce awareness, employee engagement, change management, employee advocacy, leader-led communication, purpose-driven culture and more.

I identified online resources, started following numerous thought leaders, and joined the PRSA Employee Communications section in my quest to learn more about internal communications.

Last month I had the honor of speaking at CONNECT18, the PRSA Employee Communications Section’s annual conference. While I attend the PRSA International Conference every year, this was the first time I’d attended a conference completely dedicated to internal communications. Being surrounded by other internal communications strategists was invigorating and motivating!

Some key takeaways from CONNECT18 that resonated with me include:

  • Only 13 percent of full-time employees are excited about what they do, according to Gallup.
  • According to Alison Davis, CEO of Davis & Company, employees have two essential needs. They are meaning seekers (“What I do matters”) and connection seekers (“I’m part of this important community”). Internal communicators have the greatest potential to help employees find meaning, make connections and build community.
  • Similar to the 5Cs of news writing, Davis shared 5Cs for communicating with employees:
    • Craft a compelling story.
    • Curate content to emphasize what’s important.
    • Create memorable moments.
    • Connect employees to build community.
    • Celebrate progress and success.
  • Ann Melinger, CEO of Brilliant Ink, discussed five rules of employee engagement:
    • Get them involved.
    • Be honest from the beginning.
    • Show them a path to success.
    • Connect the dots.
    • Keep talking (they’re listening).
  • Natalie Smith, APR, and Julie McCracken from Padilla presented a new viewpoint on employee engagement based on career stages instead of age and generation. For example, two employees of a similar age may be at completely different stages of their careers with the same company. While they may share generationally driven workplace needs, they have different preferences and motivators based on how long they’ve been with the company.

The Employee Communications Section is just one of 14 PRSA Professional Interest Sections, which are members-only communities focused on specific areas. They offer specialized content delivered through online communities, newsletters, webinars, conferences and more.

I have benefited greatly from my memberships with three PRSA Sections – the Employee Communications Section, Health Academy and Corporate Communications Section. I encourage you to join a PRSA Section as well. Most Section memberships are in the $60 range. For non-PRSA members, if you join PRSA through June 30, 2018, you can receive a free one-year membership to a Section of your choice by using the code SECTIONS18.

PRSA Sections also offer members leadership opportunities. Two Hoosier chapter members serve on the PRSA Employee Communications Section’s Executive Committee – Chuck Gose, a former Hoosier chapter board member, is Chair-Elect of the Section, and Myra Cocca, APR, a past President of the Hoosier chapter, is an at-large member. In fact, six of the 14 PRSA Sections have Hoosier chapter members on their Executive Committees!

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Sonja Popp-Stahly, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Chair of the PRSA National Membership Committee, serves on the Commission on Public Relations Education (CPRE) Steering Committee and is Professional Adviser to the Purdue University PRSSA Chapter. A past President of the PRSA Hoosier Chapter, she has served on the PRSA National Board of Directors, PRSA Health Academy Executive Committee and as the PRSSA National Professional Adviser. Sonja works in Global Employee Communications at Eli Lilly and Company.