New internal communication employee advocacy model

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

During the past couple of months I have been doing a bit of guest blogging. If you missed my pieces for Newsweaver and the Institute of Internal Communication, here is a summary with links to the full articles…..

Internal Communication | Keeping employees informed is just the start of the process

Internal Communication has a strong journalistic heritage that casts a long shadow over current practice. When Heather Yaxley and I researched the history of Internal Communication for the new edition of Exploring Internal Communication, we found that practitioners were often originally called ‘Industrial Editors’. The focus of practice in the 20th century was edited newspapers that majored on profiles of senior managers and corporate news, with little room for input or comment from employees.

Contemporary practice remains grounded in news items and briefings for employees and writing skills are therefore as important today as they’ve always been. However, employee expectations about the way that their organization communicates with them are becoming much more sophisticated.

My research suggests that a regular, well written, email briefing is helpful for employees. They like short summaries with links to more details on the intranet. Images and infographics in email briefings are also valued. The language used in briefings is, as we know, very important. Employees are sometimes irritated by overly crafted pieces and value informal and friendly written copy.

Although keeping employees informed through email briefings remains an important core Internal Communication function I believe it should be seen as the basis for further communication, not ‘the be all and end all’ of practice.

AVID employee supporters

Trust in CEOs, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, is declining and as a result of this employee advocacy is now becoming seen as the saviour of organisational reputation.

The suggestion is that if we supply employees with ready-made sound bites they will post them on their personal social media and this will enhance organisational reputation.

This simple and seemingly highly effective approach has been termed ‘megaphoning’ reflecting the amplification that a voluntary employee comment may have on corporate messages. Some commentators have even started to refer to employees as an organisation’s secret weapons.

However, as with many simple sounding solutions to complex issues, there may be a catch. An employee’s online friends are very likely to spot a pre-prepared message a mile off and see it for what it is; a manufactured rather than an authentic view. This could, unintentionally, have a negative effect rather than the hoped for positive, reputation enhancing, impact.

It is therefore worthwhile stopping to consider what the best approach is for employees to become advocates. The starting point for advocacy is to understand what communication employees expect and then to understand how this leads to organisational engagement. When employees are genuinely engaged with their organisation (which is different to being engaged with their work) they are more likely to voluntarily post positive comments in their own authentic words.

My AVID model of internal communication can be linked to employees becoming avid supporters of their organisation.