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If you’re looking for fresh ways to improve employee communication, try using strategies that marketing pros use to engage consumers.

Now, you might be thinking, “What does marketing have to do with employee communication? I’m not trying to sell employees a high-tech air fryer!”

But the reality is you have the same goals: grabbing people’s attention and getting them to “buy in” to an idea or act.

Marketing pros are very good at doing this by understanding what people want and creating a strategy or catchy brand that draws their target customers.

You can channel these skills and apply them to internal communication by leveraging these five marketing strategies:

1. Customize content by audience

Do you binge-watch TV series? Netflix keeps you hooked by using algorithms to curate shows based on the content you’ve watched (or clicked on) before. You know the drill: As soon as you’re done with seven seasons of Game of Thrones, there’s another action-packed, sci-fi fantasy series waiting for you!

How to apply this approach

Employees also want content that’s tailored to their needs and preferences, but they won’t spend more than a minute searching for it. Your job is to make it quick and easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

For example, use intranet capabilities to automatically curate news stories, events or resources based on employees’ unique attributes: region, department, role, etc. You can also add features like tagging and subscriptions, so employees can control what they want to see on their homepages.

2. Tell a great story

Can you imagine being eight years old and walking to school without shoes? This is the idea that inspired Blake Mycokski to launch the popular shoe company TOMS. Its mission: to provide a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.

This mission also resonated with millions of TOMS customers. The company tugged at consumers’ heartstrings by telling stories about TOMS helping kids live better lives around the world. The campaign “One day without shoes” used multiple channels, including a social media community, to share these compelling stories and inspire consumers to give back.

How to apply this approach

Storytelling can also help you take employee communication to a deeper level by bringing your messages to life through examples that employees can relate to.

For example, help employees feel connected to your organization’s values and why they’re meaningful by inviting employees to share their success stories:

  • Which value is the most important to you: For your work? Or why you joined the organization?
  • Which values do you witness every day as you work with colleagues and teams?
  • What advice would you give to others to demonstrate a value?

Share these stories across a variety of communication channels: a short video during a town hall, a fun Yammer post or on digital signage. Employees will feel good knowing they make a difference and their work matters.

3. Reward people for their commitment

Big retailers, such as Amazon and Target, know how to motivate customers to shop by offering reward programs and incentives, such as discounts, early access to new products and free shipping. These enticing rewards not only help companies retain loyal customers, but they also attract new ones.

How to apply this approach

Employees want to be rewarded and recognized too! (I mean, who doesn’t?) Whether it’s getting employees to enroll in a new benefits plan or motivating them to reach a big sales goal, celebrating achievements will encourage employees to act.

Here are a few examples:

  • Create a wellness warrior challenge to encourage employees to make the most of everything your wellness program has to offer. Recognize the top wellness warriors with a healthy lunch with the CEO.
  • Celebrate milestones during a big change initiative, such as completing the first phase of a new technology platform implementation. Recognize contributors and tell stories about wins.
  • Host a virtual scavenger hunt on your new intranet to help employees navigate the site and find the information they need. Then randomly select five employees who completed the hunt to win a $100 gift card.
  • Create a system where employees earn points as they complete required training sessions. Once an employee hits 100 points, provide a certificate that documents their expert status.

4. Listen to what people want

The most successful companies are always listening to what their customers want and encouraging them to share feedback (even if it’s negative). These valuable insights help companies make improvements to their products and services and show customers they care.

For example, AirBnB conducted a 2020 online survey to see how hosts and guests were coping with short-term rental restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company used this feedback to identify customer issues and ways the company could better support both groups.

How to apply this approach

It’s no surprise that employees also want to be heard and feel their ideas are valued. Here are a few ways to give employees the opportunity to provide feedback:

  • Create an annual survey to get a pulse on employees’ communication preferences and needs.
  • Host a few employee focus groups (eight to 10 people) to dig deeper into a specific issue and identify areas for improvement.
  • Collect questions asked during big meetings to identify topics employees want to know more about.
  • Facilitate a process mapping exercise to understand where a process is getting stuck and gather participants’ ideas for improvement.

And remember, it’s important your feedback efforts aren’t just one and done. Keep them going throughout the year and follow up with employees, so they know what will happen based on their input.

5. Create a memorable brand

Having a strong brand is very important to an organization’s success—it makes a memorable impression on consumers, boosts the impact of contact points and encourages loyalty.

Nike has one of the most iconic brands in the world. Why? People immediately recognize the swoosh and are drawn by the tagline: Just Do It! Nike brings those elements to life by showcasing athletes (both pro and the average Joe) and inspiring consumers to reach their goals.

How to apply this approach

Creating a memorable internal brand and program identities can help you build employee pride and drive awareness of important initiatives.

For example, to get employees on board during the launch of a new wellness program, leverage these marketing strategies:

  • Develop a key message platform with a catchy tagline.
  • Create a visual identity, including a logo, color palette and images.
  • Recruit employees as brand ambassadors to talk about the wellness resources they use most.
  • Give out branded swag, such as water bottles or headbands, or brand a special healthy lunch in the cafeteria each week.

There’s a lot to learn from the marketing pros—ideas that will help you design communication that breaks through, build employee engagement and drive better business outcomes.

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