Employees recognised as critical channel in new Australian research

August, 5 – BY TAM SANDEMAN – Last week I was fortunate enough to be on a panel discussing and debating the findings of some fantastic new research, out this week from Ogilvy PR Australia and the IABC, looking at the future of the communication/PR industry in 2021. The good news for us who work in the internal communication fraternity – and for business in general – is that 79 per cent of respondents agreed that employees would emerge as the most critical channel for an organization in the next decade. At last I say. But I also say – given the respondents were communication professionals, I can’t help but be disappointed this was not closer to 100 per cent. This is by 2021 we’re talking.

Organisations should have realised this already. In fact, those we are working with who put their employees first are creating powerful armies of brand ambassadors who now, thanks to the internet and prolific use of social media, are delivering an extremely authentic and believable voice. They are able to exert influence about a brand in a far greater way than advertising, and perhaps more than PR. But can they? That is the question?

When will organisations learn to loosen the hold they have on what employees can and can’t say online? When it boils down to it, it’s a trust issue.

Many organisations simply don’t trust their people to do the right thing. And this therefore becomes a culture issue. If organisations want to make this work they have to let go, empower their people to say the right stuff online, not stop them from saying anything. Most companies spend more time telling their people what they can’t say rather than helping them with what they can.

We’ve been saying for years that until people see internal – i.e. their people – as part of the external solution, we will stay still. As all employee communication professionals know – a mighty untapped resource lays dormant in many organisations and we’re still trying to wake the giant. But we can’t do it alone.

For employees to be great brand ambassadors – and I mean really great brand ambassadors – we must equip them in being able to tell a good story.  As we know, people remember stories not facts.  There’s nothing more powerful. However, if genuine and compelling storytelling is at the heart of what we do, then why did only 56% of respondents in the survey say that by 2021 equipping employees on message delivery would be a core discipline? That’s nearly half of respondents who said it wouldn’t be. And this is from communication professionals.

So, to our crystal balls – what will the future hold for our industry? Looking forward, we will see internal communication as a core competency of all leaders and middle managers and a significant rise in training in this regard; storytelling for all employees; KPIs around communication.

Finally, marketing teams who are starting to look at their internal audience strategically, a word of warning: mugs, mousemats and posters will not achieve behaviour change. Only authentic engagement and empowerment with trust at the centre will suffice…