In today’s media landscape, content meant for employees can go external in seconds, and people receive information about a company from a variety of sources. Along with the increased demand for transparency, authenticity and speed, this changes the game for how companies approach communications. This could shift how communications teams work together. Most organizations have separate internal and external communications functions. Other functions, such as government relations, human resources, recruiting and marketing have communications as part of their responsibilities. All need to partner closely for a “mixternal” approach.
We think of mixternal communications as an integrated approach that engages both internal and external audiences through a coordinated content and channel strategy. This is not a new idea, but has drastically increased in importance in recent years.
Fundamental to the mixternal idea is that companies must walk the talk. With growing expectations to speak out on specific issues, companies are more often in the spotlight. Employees, customers, consumers, partners and policymakers all are holding them accountable, examining if their words reflect their actions.
A CEO can post on LinkedIn or do an interview about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. But that commitment must be reflected within their own walls, too.
Audience groups are not mutually exclusive. People are employees, customers, consumers and other stakeholders all at the same time. They might hear news from their employer, but also see it in an article or social post. In a perfect world, all this content would work together.
Ways to get “mixternal”
Define shared objectives. Internal and external communications teams should have their own objectives, but shared objectives are important for a blended approach. For example, driving authenticity of a commitment to local communities also enhances a company’s employer reputation.
Reevaluate ways of working. Develop a structure to ensure collaboration. This can be as formal as adjusting reporting lines or review processes, or as informal as meeting once or twice a week. It may be a mix of both, especially with functions which may not have “communications” in the title, like government relations or HR.
Align on a channel strategy. Conduct an audit to determine how to use existing and new platforms to reach audiences effectively. This knowledge and alignment can help determine where content should live and how it can be amplified.
As with any change, this is not as simple as flipping a switch, but you must start somewhere. Encourage employees to share their perspectives about a company event or announcement, following social media guidelines, on their LinkedIn or upload a video to your company Instagram channel of your CEO speaking at a town hall. Start by asking for each piece of content: “Can we share this both internally and externally?” Make note of what works and what doesn’t and adjust your approach accordingly.
The concept of mixternal communications is simple. But creating a foundation and putting it into practice requires an intentional, proactive and continuous partnership between functions that have historically worked independently. This enhanced approach to storytelling can help build trust with key audiences and elevate the role, efficiency and impact of communications.
Supriya Satya is VP and Liz McCarthy is EVP at United Minds, a part of Weber Shandwick.