The inside story is of utmost importance

Under the intense pressure of today's economic climate, many executives want to focus all of their time on the story they are telling to investors or customers.

Under the intense pressure of today's economic climate, many executives want to focus all of their time on the story they are telling to investors or customers. While these audiences are incredibly important, smart communicators are flipping that equation around. Rather than focusing on what people are hearing outside of the office walls, they are advising clients to look within and concentrate on the story being told to employees.

Far too often, employees are the third-class citizens of the communications world, hearing about company announcements only as media coverage appears on the Internet. Companies who fail to put employees first do so at their own risk. Numerous studies have shown that employees who feel disconnected from their employer will be less productive, more prone to leave, and will not recommend their employer to others. With the escalating importance of word-of-mouth marketing and social network recommendations, the financial and reputational impact of forgetting about employee communications can be steep indeed.

Employees are an incredibly powerful communications asset. They are constantly building connections, whether to other employees, customers, vendors, friends, or other constituencies your company wants to engage. Employees want to contribute by making their workplace better and feeling like their voice is heard. Bringing your story to employees first and having an ongoing dialogue with them about changes taking place within the company builds trust and employee connection to the company and your brand.

There are a few easy steps to begin building alignment between employees and your company story:

Utilize digital media tools such as LinkedIn, Yammer, and SharePoint to build groups, share information, and solicit input and feedback.

Encourage employee-generated content, whether written or video, to get personal stories about their experiences.

Identify local brand champions within the company and empower them to enlist others within their internal networks.

Provide people managers with the right information and training to help their employees understand the story and what it means to them.

Expanding the lines of communication with your employees will help to maximize the impact of your communications efforts.

Paul Turner is SVP at Hill & Knowlton San Francisco.

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