7 PR Tips for Employee Communications

A strong internal communications team is essential to a company's success. Employees need to be kept informed of their organization's activities and direction in order to feel secure about their role and their contribution to the team. The internal comms folks are the gatekeepers of that information, and for them to effectively do their job, they need to rely on some solid PR tactics.

coolerAlanna Vitucci, director of communications and alumni relations at Northcentral University in Arizona, shares some tips that internal communicators can learn from PR pros.

  1. Subject lines are headlines. You’ve worked on the quarterly message from your CEO for weeks. Every word has been fine-tuned and approved by the legal team. You’re ready to hit send, but chances are you haven’t given enough thought to the 50 most important characters of the whole message: the subject line.
  2. Don’t explain missions, tell stories. I used to love Peanuts cartoons as a kid—especially the teacher, who always was portrayed as speaking some sort of gibberish. Unfortunately, a few years into my career in communications I realized I had become that teacher. What about my perfectly crafted explanation of our mission statement, strategy and vision? All employees heard was blather every time I tried to explain why making sports medicine products for performance horses was a cause to celebrate.
  3. Pictures are worth 1,000 words. These days at NCU, we are leveraging memes—powerful images with a simple quote or statement—to celebrate the complicated thought process that goes into choosing to pursue a PhD and the challenges it entails.
  4. Influencers matter, especially water cooler gossips. Every organization has formal and informal influencers. For PR, it’s often national media reporters and mommy bloggers respectively. In the business world, there are formal networks for communications and informal networks for those who are the biggest gossips.
  5. Communicate where your audience is. The most successful communication campaign I ever ran was as a residence assistant in college. It was on safe sex, and I never spoke a single word. For the campaign, which I called “Potty Talk,” I clipped out interesting articles from Cosmopolitan, Glamour and other magazines and taped them on poster board hung on stall doors in the bathroom. I deemed the campaign a success when students kept asking for new articles to be added.
  6. Humor is effective, but use it wisely. You’re reading this (at least, I hope you are) because it’s a slightly quirky and fun take on how to make your communications more effective. That doesn’t mean that everything your CEO writes should be funny. It’s important to know when humor is your best strategy. For example, if you have a CEO who struggles to connect with employees, consider planning your next town hall in the style of "The Tonight Show," with a host who interviews various executives.
  7. Sometimes a scavenger hunt works best. Twice now I have used a scavenger hunt to launch an Intranet site and gather user feedback. At American Express, we launched an Intranet for finance employees. In keeping with tip no. 6, we went with a Where’s Waldo?-type scavenger hunt entitled “Find Gary,” which referred to the then-CFO of the company. We hid a picture of Gary wearing a funny hat on the five pages we wanted employees to visit most. Each page had a clue about where to find Gary next.

For more information on internal communications, see PR News' Book of Employee Communications, on sale now.

Follow Northcentral University: @NorthcentralU

Follow Richard Brownell on Twitter: @RickBrownell