You know that you need to market to your target demographics to acquire and retain customers. But have you considered that you should also market to your employees to keep them engaged in their work and keep your business thriving?
Maybe you have; most companies report that disengaged employees are one of the biggest threats to productivity. Then what’s the best way to market to them? They already know about your products and services; they’re the ones providing them. That’s where content marketing comes in. Although this marketing strategy is enjoying a recent surge in popularity, it isn’t new, and it’s not going out of style anytime soon. Understanding it is the first step to using it to your company’s advantage in internal communications.
Understanding Content Marketing
Put simply, content marketing means providing valuable information that is related to the needs of your customers or target audience. Instead of simply telling them about your products and services and convincing them that they need to spend money on what you want them to buy, you give honest and unbiased content they come to trust. Trusting in that information leads them to trust in your brand. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing this way: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Think about it another way: When heroes from comic books or movies are made into action figures, the toys fly off the shelves, even if that’s not one of their superpowers. Why? Because, as this article explains, the stories serve as content marketing for them. Children—and often adults—find the comics and movies interesting and relevant, so they are drawn to purchase the toys for more fun.
For some more business related examples, think about companies that publish customer magazines with trade insights, news, or ideas. They might mention their own products, but they aren’t the focus of the publication. Instead, they focus on relating factual, beneficial information that their customers can use regardless of whether they buy anything from the company. But readers do buy from the company because they trust the brand as a quality name they know that has their best interests in mind.
It doesn’t have to be a physical publication. It can be a quality email newsletter or blog. It can be well-written podcasts, social media sites, or videos. The important thing is not to pack them with useless content that customers will disregard or—worse—false or biased content that may harm readers. Doing so will result in a poor reputation for your publication and possibly for your company in turn.
When used most effectively, content marketing is a part of most other types of marketing strategies, too. For example, quality content improves social media posts and helps launch PR campaigns that show more interest in consumer concerns than in a company’s own products.
Internal Communications and Content Marketing
Okay, so how does content marketing translate into better employee engagement? Well, you already have plenty of internal communications with your employees. You send emails, you post notices, you might have newsletters, social media, blogs, or other online platforms. But are your workers engaged with those platforms? Are you providing quality content and valuable information that your employees want? Here are some ways you can use content marketing ideas to transform those internal communications into engaging ones today.
Make knowledge accessible.
Have you ever picked up an owner’s manual ready to learn all about your new device, only to disregard it a moment later because you were overloaded with information or couldn’t find anything you wanted to know about the product? How about a how-to video that was slow, repetitive, or seemed to talk around the problem without providing real answers? Ensure that your employee handbooks and training modules don’t come off this way. Try to take a new look at them through the eyes of those who use them or ask your workers to provide feedback about them. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, revise them so the most relevant information comes upfront and users can easily skip to the parts they want to see if they’re just looking for a refresher on a specific topic.
Use multiple formats.
Don’t focus all your attention on videos, podcasts, or social media. Use all of these elements as best you can. Get someone in your communications department to specialize in each one, or better yet, find employee volunteers to periodically take over different formats that they are comfortable using. This increases employee engagement from both the creation and the consumer sides.
Give small bites.
People have a lot of information competing for their attention, so they like content that gets to the point. Summarize the main idea in a subtitle so readers can skim articles without reading the whole thing and still get the main idea. Keep your messages short, but provide links or other resources for more knowledge if employees are interested.
There’s power in purpose.
Consider the “why” of the information you’re sharing. “Why?” is usually what employees want to know whenever something changes within the company, so if they can trust your internal communications to answer that, they will become more engaged with those communications and, thus, with the company itself. Remember that honesty is an integral component of content marketing; if you make up explanations or don’t tell the whole truth, your audience is likely to notice, and they won’t appreciate it.
Tailor your text.
If you’re communicating the same message to a new audience within your company, you may need to change the language a bit. Don’t assume you can copy and paste just because the general idea is the same. The same goes for videos and podcasts. If they weren’t originally created for a broad audience, they may not have broad applicability. A few edits will help slightly different audiences feel like the content was made for them so they can interact with and relate to it better.
Visualize the goal.
Oh, this one’s easy, right? You want employees to be more engaged. Yes, but think specifically about what each piece of content is going to do to get them more engaged. Is it going to give them better tools for doing their job? To give them insight about company operations so they feel more excited about the organization’s future? Show them they are a valued member of the company community? Something else? Write or edit your content with that goal constantly in mind.
Say you’re providing the latest statistics about eating breakfast and productivity in workplace settings like yours. Under that, ask your readers to indicate how often they eat breakfast and whether they believe it affects their workday. When your messages include buttons to press, you’re a lot more likely to get employees to read what those buttons are about. And having them press buttons—like a survey, for instance—can be a great way to gather more information to provide to them next time.
Stories say it better.
Not all of your information should come in the form of hard facts. Actually, people understand, believe, and retain ideas better when they’re presented in a relatable, narrative format. Maybe you’re explaining the benefits of safety equipment and procedures; use a real-life example and try to get that person to talk about how they were kept out of harm’s way. You could describe the life stories of successful individuals within your company and industry to instruct employees on how to improve their careers. Think of more ways you can make the information you share into an engaging story.
Mix work and play.
Jobs take up most of our waking lives, so we deserve to have at least a little fun while we do them. Internal communications are a great place for that, especially if getting people more engaged is the goal. Think about ways you can integrate video games, personal social media, and popular TV, movie, and music references when you’re producing internal content.
Put it in their palms.
Mobile compatibility will be your biggest asset in getting employees to engage with your internal content. Much of their free attention is already devoted to their phones, so be sure any websites you want them to access have a mobile version and that your email graphics work in mobile mail. Definitely create company social media accounts on all the major sites (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and consider developing an internal company app if you don’t already have one.
Remember that employees are consumers.
The whole idea behind content marketing in internal communications is that your employees think the same way your customers do—because they’re all people in a similar culture. Remember to make your content fun and interesting, just as you would if it were for customers. Include graphics and dynamic elements when you can. Use attractive, professional fonts and color schemes. Seeing communications geared toward themselves that look as good as those meant for consumer audiences will send the message to your employees that you value them.
Engage through creation.
Ask employees to produce their own content for your internal messages. Those employees take active roles, their peers are likely to want to check out their content, and the department responsible for producing internal communications gets a bit of a break. Triple win!
Internal Newsletter Knowledge
A quality employee newsletter is your headquarters for all things internal content marketing. While it may not be the only way you distribute content, it is an integral one. A newsletter provides:
- up-to-date information and easy record keeping
- consistency in format and publication time
- streamlined messages rather than multiple emails or memos
These benefits grow if you consider an email or online newsletter:
- direct comments on or replies to articles from readers
- include interactive games, links, and other modules
- searchable content for best user experience
Finally, there are numerous ways in which you can use a newsletter to integrate the above ideas for content marketing in internal communications into your employee messages.
- Create different sections—or whole different newsletters—for different audiences within your employee base, making it easier for you to tailor your messages and easier for them to find the most relevant information.
- A newsletter can include multiple formats. In a print publication, you can include images and infographics as well as text. In an email newsletter, the possibilities are nearly endless, as you can include videos, podcasts or recordings, social media links, and dynamic clickables.
- Subtitles and summaries are easy in this platform. Many email and online newsletters make use of clickable formatting so only the first few lines of stories are available until readers decide they want to view the rest. That way, they see more on one page and are more likely to become engaged with something before turning their attention away.
- There are countless ways to make a newsletter interactive, both online and in print. You can ask employees to answer surveys, complete challenges, or submit pictures of themselves and their families. See this article for more ideas.
- Newsletters are storytelling machines! Well, not exactly machines, but telling stories is what they are made for. Use other platforms, like Twitter or Instagram, to grab attention and link to the full story in your online newsletter.
- Crossword puzzles, funny pictures, and entertainment stories fit easily into company newsletters to add elements of fun.
- Your company newsletter should be easy to make mobile and to share through social media. You can create a searchable log of past issues so workers can find their favorite articles later. Make each issue or individual story shareable (as long as they don’t contain any company secrets) so readers can post them to their own social media accounts when they find one their friends and family would like. This way, you can see what types of articles are most popular with your employees, and your internal content marketing helps build positive external relations, too.
- Submitting content to the newsletter is the simplest way to get all levels of employees involved in internal content marketing. Whether they write, create a video, or just send in a picture of their family, they’ll feel more engaged and you’ll more relevant content for other employees to enjoy.
No matter what content you produce—videos, podcasts, social media posts, handbooks, pamphlets—you can always integrate a link or description into your employee newsletter. Use it as your central hub for internal communications content marketing.