Communications, marketing and PR courses tell us about audiences, their importance, how to understand your audience and how to target them through messages and channels.
Importantly, we’re told it’s not a one shoe fits all approach when communicating with your audience.
What we do as communications professionals is identify our audience, get to know them, and build a persona that helps us better conceptualise and segment the key target demographics within it.
We then build messaging and communications that relates to and targets each specific customer.
As communications professionals we will often be well-practiced in the above for external audiences, but now more than ever we need to practise this with internal audiences too.
Today it’s all about personalised communications, tailored to employees so it resonates with them and what they do.
When I spoke at H&H’s global online IC conference earlier this year, I wanted to demonstrate that understanding our audience should go beyond just external stakeholders.
Internal stakeholders are just as, if not more important.
This stretches across to understanding and getting to know the leadership team.
Why? Because as communications professionals, our messaging has to be informed and aligned – and working with the leadership team is one way to ensure that we are always communicating the most up-to-date and relevant business messages.
How do we do this?
It starts with us as communicators. Although switched on senior leaders who either understand the strategic value of internal communications, or are open to understanding the benefits, will make life a little easier.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t matter to us. We should make the effort to get to know our senior leaders regardless, because our communications will reap the rewards.
Start by developing the relationship – understand the area of the business the senior leader represents and their unique style.
By “style”, I mean their style of communicating – do they like graphics instead of wordy documents or presentations, or are they the opposite, actually preferring in-depth detail?
Are they an e-mailer or a lover of face-to-face conversations?
Do they favour short meetings or long?
And how do they naturally communicate with their teams?
Developing our understanding of these areas will take time, but it does mean we get to have more face-to-face time with our senior leaders, which is great.
And at some point, when we have developed the relationship further, we will begin to nurture it.
We communicators are collaborators, and we should position ourselves across the business as such.
To be the best collaborators, we have to be proactive and develop comms solutions for the business, speak to each business function – such as finance, IT or HR – to understand what they need to communicate, and advise them solutions on how they should be communicating.
Our support and expertise, as well as the knowledge and relationships we build across the organisation, play a vital role in our collaboration with senior leaders.
Use our knowledge
The third part is about bringing it all together.
We’ve taken the time to get to know and understand senior leaders, and we’ve collaborated across the business to acquire useful knowledge and provide innovative comms solutions.
Now we can use the information we have gathered to influence our leaders, and their communications.
Getting to understand your senior leaders through using the above approach will help you to establish the best course of action for engaging employees with relevant, valuable, and consistent communications, that are aligned with the wider business strategy and objectives.
You only need to look at one of the most fundamental, and fulfilling, rewards of senior leaders engaging with internal comms to see the benefits – happy and confident employees, who understand the direction the business is going in and are aware of the value their contributions are making towards achieving the end goals.
Develop the relationship, collaborate across the business and use your knowledge to support senior leaders to understand what the business is communicating and how communications are received and perceived across the organisation.
This approach will enable senior leaders to collaborate effectively with communicators, and for communications professionals, it means we can have exclusive insight and access that will help us significantly enhance the impact of business messages.
Ultimately, your communications should not be based on a one shoe fits all approach.
And getting to know senior leaders so we can work with them to share expertise and gain invaluable strategic insight, will empower us to create much more effective, powerful and measurable internal communications.
Why not delve into the 13 other brilliant presentations from leadership and IC experts at our global online conference back in May?