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Internal corporate communications play a fundamental role in keeping your best talent engaged and helping your team navigate major changes. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “While change is often in the best long-term interest of a company, it can wreak havoc on an organization’s people in the near term. Periods of change on a grand scale — crises, mergers and acquisitions, mass layoffs — can especially erode employee engagement, loyalty, and trust.” Fortunately, effective communications can help stave off some of these negative effects.

A recent study from Weber Shandwick found that 55 percent of employees who had gone through a change management event wished they had received more internal digital communication. With much of today’s communication happening digitally, employees are increasingly seeking real-time information from their managerial and human resources teams. Here’s a closer look at how strategically planning your digital internal corporate communications can help you weather the most challenging change management storms. 

Pfizer: Managing restructuring with sharp digital communications

Having undergone a number of restructuring efforts over the last decade, including layoffs, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has leveraged digital communications to help manage employee conversations. From intranets and internal social media, the company invested in its internal corporate communications capabilities in order to build strong relationships. This functions during the course of regular operations as well as during times of change management.

 

Pfizer has also invested in innovative initiatives. The Harvard Business Review notes that during a significant restructuring effort in 2007, the company selected ten employees to share their perspectives via a video diary series. Well received, the series helped the company shape a narrative around events for both internal and external audiences.

 

Implementing a digital internal corporate communications strategy

Whether you’re considering your communications options for a change management event or laying the foundation for more effective ongoing communication, here’s a closer look at some of the strategies successful brands are implementing.

 

Build trust through transparent communications from leaders. Digital channels help your company’s leaders communicate with employees in a more real-time, personal way. Zappos’ CEO famously emailed employees about a layoff prior to announcing it publicly. In times of change, clear and timely communications can help improve positive perceptions of your leaders, help teams feel secure and create trust and lines of communications between the top levels of your business and the rest of your workforce.

 

Embrace timely digital-first communications. In our always-connected digital world, employees may hear about major developments that affect their jobs from social channels or the media before they hear about it from company leadership. Your organization should always strive to shape the narrative around company events. Digital channels allow your corporate communications team to get out in front of public discussions, criticism and analysis.

 

Assess your channels. We live in a world of dynamic digital spaces. Business leaders need communications plans that leverage email, intranets, internal social networks and collaboration tools like Slack. Evaluate the digital channels your employees already use and create an integrated digital strategy that delivers your key messages to your workforce on their preferred platform.

 

Give employees a voice. Many large companies are following Pfizer’s example and giving employees a voice in corporate communications. Some large brands like Coca-Cola have developed employee advocate programs, which train employees to speak with internal and external audiences. Other options include company forums, suggestion boxes and spot surveys. As you navigate different change management experiences, you can build connections by giving employees an authentic and positive voice. In the long term, turning employees into brand advocates can also help improve your team’s loyalty — and loyal, satisfied employees spread good news about their employers as a matter of pride. Your company can benefit greatly from this kind of word-of-mouth advertising.

 

Corporate changes are challenging times for employees. Don’t focus your communications exclusively on external audiences. Ensure that you’re leveraging the immediacy and intimacy of digital channels to engage with your most important audience — your team. With strategic internal corporate communications, it’s possible to share your vision, build confidence and trust through times of change and benefit from your employees’ best ideas.

Liz Alton writes about technology, marketing and business for enterprise audiences. She’s a Forbes contributor and her writing has been published in Inc, USA Today, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Mic, Harvard Business Review blogs and the WSJ. She holds an MBA and a BA in journalism, and is completing a masters in Journalism at Harvard.

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