Speaking at Advertising + Marketing magazine’s Comms MY conference, Mastura Adnan, head of corporate communications and corporate affairs for Standard Chartered Bank, emphasised the importance of internal communications in a company.
“Firstly, we need to remember that any kind of internal communications that is shared externally can potentially tarnish a company’s image,” she cautioned. To avoid any crisis, a company has to establish a solid internal communications line with all employees across all divisions.
Companies need to embrace their employees as brand ambassadors, and as such, they need to take care of their stakeholders and realise that employee satisfaction will directly impact a company’s public perception. For this reason, exchanging information is essential to a company’s success, via internal and external communications.
“Keeping your communications accurate and informative is vital.”
Highlighting that effective engagement has to begin from within the company, she also shared tips on how to ensure the channels of communication are clearly defined at the beginning of an employee’s career in the company. To improve and create effective engagement with employees, she recommended the following steps:
1. Starting from within: Spot engaged employees
According to Mastura, engaged employees are those who share and believe in the company’s vision and objectives.
“They are the forces that drive and make your brand great.”
A company should find out how to effectively communicate business objectives to employees across the board, and also ensure the departments are talking to each other consistently and effectively. In spotting an ideal engaged employee, she said managers should look out for candidates who exhibit a motivated and authentic approach to their work.
An engaged employee is someone who is also involved in various aspects that contribute to the company’s growth, while being receptive and proactive in terms of executing new improvements for the company’s progress. A company should identify champions – employees who are not necessarily leaders – so as to promote self-discovery and instil brand pride.
2. How to effectively engage employees
Building a strong brand requires that all employees feel connected to the corporate brand and understand their role in turning brand aspirations into reality. To build a strong corporate brand, you need brand ambassadors – employees who are thoroughly engaged.
“Promoting self-discovery among employees will engage them.”
A company should set the goal of attracting new brand ambassadors who will feel authentically drawn to its brand. Helping its employees unearth their greatest strengths and integrating them into everything it does is essential to its success and the success of its team, she added.
Prepping employees to be brand ambassadors will involve extensive and effective engagement with the employees. Mastura said a company was responsible for “instilling a sense of belonging” in every individual in the company, regardless of their seniority.
“Discover how to turn your staff into ambassadors for your brand.”
Companies should also strategies to make brand awareness among its staff a priority. “How can your team deliver on the corporate brand promise if they aren’t clear about what it is?
“As a leader, you must educate your team on the brand and live the brand so they can learn from your example.”
Strong brands are not built by the marketing department alone; every employee in the organisation has a role to play, she said.
According to her, newcomers at Standard Chartered Bank are quizzed on a multiple choice test to ensure they are well-versed in the company’s credentials and objectives.
Most importantly, a company’s employee engagement or internal communications strategy needs to align with the overall business strategy and objectives.
3. Sustaining relationships with employees
To sustain a communicative relationship with its employees, a company has to decide on the communication channels that appropriately meet its strategic objectives and goals, while keeping its employees engaged at all times.
According to Mastura, engaged employees are more productive, create better customer experiences and are more likely to remain with their employers. Thus, a company should connect on both a personal and corporate level.
“Your brand must promote greater two-way feedback with employees and actively respond to and communicate appropriately on feedback received.”
This will encourage more bottom-up communication and feedback, moving away from a purely “top-down” approach. This exercise, she advised, can generate more “honest” reporting and feedback from employees.
Finally, she concluded that while many companies may focus all their branding efforts on marketing activities such as advertising campaigns and packaging, “one of the most powerful brand assets a company has is its people”.