Many companies are so busy communicating about their products and services with external audiences, they often neglect to speak with their most valuable asset—their employees. If employees and, other stakeholders like investors and partners, are considered a target audience, it becomes clear that design is an essential tool to reach them. Add some wit and a bit of the unexpected, and internal communications is anything but the dry corporate communications efforts of old.
In-house creative managers: Build your skills, build your reputation, build your career, build your team at the 2013 InHOWse Managers Conference in San Francisco, June 22-24. Learn more and register.
Design Makes Internal Communication Accessible
Internal communications has many of the same design and strategy challenges as external marketing. The key differentiator is that internal messaging is focused on communicating vital corporate strategy, internal brand values, employee benefits or new product rollouts. Using design, especially image-driven narrative, to inform, motivate and delight internal audiences can result in:
• Clarity of goal definition
• Alignment of goals to actions
• Connection of staff to CEO vision and charisma
• Increased participation and empowerment
• Aiding recruitment and retention
• Boosting communication and advocacy
• Elevating leadership and organizational management
• Keeping the business of the business moving forward
One design firm that has specialized in internal communications for over 20 years is The Fibonacci Design Group, lead by co-creative directors, Greg Mann and Sloane Mann (right). Initially their client work focused on the entertainment industry; later they developed a hybrid of design and internal marketing strategy for internal communications clients, primarily in Silicon Valley.
From this consulting work, Mann and Mann were able to see the value and impact of image-driven communications first hand.
Many client engagements found the designers and the communications team members in corporate conference rooms inevitably brainstorming with dry-erase markers and a ubiquitous whiteboard to plan and conceptualize internal communication toolkits, employee engagement campaigns, concept videos and online productivity tools with thoughtful information architecture. The ease a simple whiteboard provided as vehicle for understanding lead Mann and Mann to the idea of using it as a visual language itself, and so they launched Whiteboard Video Labs.
The designers, together with a skilled team of specialists, combine the seemingly disparate world of razor sharp strategy, vintage Saturday morning cartoons, polished corporate video, and off-the-cuff whiteboard diagramming to create an intriguing way to reach internal audiences with a wide variety of messages, including HR, Learning & Development, and Corporate Communications. Recent projects have included initiatives around employee benefit packages for Phillips 66 and Tesoro Corporation.
“We are creating animated whiteboard videos to communicate complicated concepts in a fun and engaging way. Employees seem to respond well, maybe because it feels less like a top down directive, and more like a simplified conversation,” says Sloane Mann. To describe how Whiteboard Video Labs works with clients, they created their own whiteboard tale, of course. See it here.
Finding new ways to connect design and internal audiences is an exciting prospect. Tools may change, but a well-designed and clear message will bring amazing life to internal communications.