Case Study: External Approach to Internal Comms Equals Better Employee Engagement

Don’t assume you have a captive audience when communicating internally. It’s a crowded world out there. Hundreds of e-mails, thousands of news feeds and millions of Web sites—not to mention text messages—compete for our attention every day.

Like it or not, the external world influences how internal audiences consume and react to your messages. As employees become more and more digitally competent, they expect the same things internally that they get externally…namely, to be in control of the information they receive, how it is received and how deep they can go into it.

As communicators, we need to realize that the same tools and techniques we use to reach and influence external audiences such as customers, prospects and stakeholders can be just as effective if we focus them inward as well.


Dow Advanced Materials is a great example of a company applying external communications best practices to mobilize an internal audience. The approximately $9 billion division of the Dow Chemical Company was created through the 2009 acquisition of Rohm and Haas and the integration of several existing Dow businesses. The global division has about 12,000 employees and five very diverse businesses units, serving markets ranging from electronics and building products to personal care and packaging.

Needless to say, meshing together differing corporate cultures, brands and technologies and thousands of employees at this scale is no small task. From a communications perspective, there was a real need to help employees understand how it all fits together and why they need to rally behind the new division’s direction, goals and targets.

The communications team decided to focus on fundamentals first. They would create an employee education and engagement campaign that would spotlight successes, highlight people and teams, emphasize the uniqueness of the division, create a solid foundation for communications and build and refine their efforts from there.

The team also knew that it needed a rallying cry for the new division. The mantra “Empowered to Deliver” became the embodiment of the ultimate employee goal. With such a powerful rallying cry, the “how” of delivery was just as important as the “what.” In this case, it meant an even heavier dose of digital than originally expected.

The team looked at best practices for externally promoting a brand online, and applied those same principles to create a high-powered internal communications vehicle. Here is a sampling of what they created.


The centerpiece of the Empowered to Deliver employee campaign was building a dynamic, consumer-news-styled internal news hub as the core of the division’s intranet site. The site seamlessly integrates a heavy dose of multimedia, with particular emphasis on the use of on-demand video.

The production strategy for the site relies on a mix of business- and consumer-news styled content, quick facts and information snippets, as well as more extended features. This diversity in content allows employees to get the news they need in the manner that best suits their time and respective consumption habits.


Page design plays a major role in a site’s appeal, usability and functionality. The Advanced Materials intranet portal was intentionally designed to offer a variety of above-the-fold, quick-glance features. Seven content areas can be found on the main page, including:

• Signature photos that rotate on a regular basis.

• Breaking news feed for the division.

• Highlight banners promoting and linking to special content and features.

• Success stories section.

• Quick-glance, business group highlight tabs.

• On-demand video library.

• Useful links.


Keeping a news-style portal of this magnitude fresh requires a constant flow of information. To maximize available resources and ensure up-to-date news and features, the site is managed with a mix of original, live and sourced content.

Original content and programming includes a short-format video and print series called “Empowered to Deliver.” Picture stories, special features and breaking news are also created, managed and posted based on an established editorial calendar.


The intranet site and its content are created through a combination of internal and external resources. A joint steering team made up of representatives of the division’s communications team, video department, Internet team and PR agency manage the site. They have weekly production calls to map out upcoming activities, strategize, brainstorm and ensure a seamless product.

This collaborative setup ensures that each player is contributing where his or her greatest strength lies. The team’s ability to tap internal resources also helps limit out-of-pocket expenses, ensuring that the program is as cost efficient as possible.


Launched in May 2010, the site is a robust pipeline of information. Results from surveys indicate that the campaign is gaining traction. Employees say they have a better understanding of the division’s overall strategy and goals.

The Dow Advanced Materials team has created a benchmark for effective employee communications. They have developed a solid foundation from which the Empowered to Deliver campaign can be expanded. By planning well, using resources wisely and being disciplined and collaborative in their approach, the team engaging employees in an unprecedented manner. PRN

[Editor’s Note: This article was excerpted from the just-published PR News’ Top 100 Case Studies in PR Guidebook, Vol 5. Go to for more information.]


This case study was written by Steve Halsey (, VP of digital and social media for Gibbs & Soell Inc., and Ken Gedaka ( public affairs director for Dow Advanced Materials, a division of The Dow Chemical Company.