Is your department, division, or team chronically looked down upon by others in your organization? Sure, some of it might be your primary function (i.e. if you’re responsible for performance improvement plans, discipline, or firing, you’re probably not very popular). Similarly, it could be the amount of time it takes you to complete your duties based on the systems you’re constrained by (if it takes me three months to get a new pack of pens, I won’t be very happy).
The problem is that everyone could share tales about why their department isn’t really the problem: it’s the structure, or the system, or the workload. But by and large, if I’m being negatively impacted by your department, I don’t really care about the excuse.
So, what can you do? Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate all of the negative feelings, but you can improve your overall image before you get into the blame and excuse cycle. How? Here are some simple tips for internal PR.
- Develop a strategy: Internal PR is similar to marketing a product. You need a strategy that indicates who you are trying to reach, the needs of your audience, what your message is trying to achieve, the best methods to reach your audience, a follow-up plan (if necessary), and how you will measure success (buzz, engagement, positive surveys, etc.). Keep an actual written plan that your internal PR team (or person) can come back to frequently.
- Listen: This is one of the most important skills you can develop for great communications. Don’t assume that you know how to engage your audience or what the prime problems are. Instead,listen to your audience and figure out what they want/need and why, why they struggle when interacting with your department, what they’d like to know/see fixed, what they like, the list goes on. Listen to those in your department who aren’t on the PR team to determine what they hear from others at the agency and what ideas they have for improving your department image. As you listen and learn, you’ll be collecting the necessary information for developing your message, which will become more targeted and will help you to appear more invested in meeting the needs of the audience.
- Don’t reach out too frequently: It doesn’t matter how great your message is—if you contact people too many times, they’ll start tuning you out, and then you’re back to square one. This is why it is of utmost importance to understand your audience and target your message directly to them to help maintain engagement.
- Offer multiple outlets for your audience to learn about you: Think about how your audience might want to interact, and act accordingly. Use many different methods to get your message out, from memos, to face-to-face engagements, to social media and beyond.
- Offer areas for engagement rather than only speaking at your audience: Encourage your audience to engage with you, and give them opportunities to do so. It doesn’t have to be anything big; it could be something small like a brown bag lunch discussion.
- Keep evolving: As your department changes or your audience and their needs change, continue to evolve your PR strategy. If you keep your plan fluid, it will help you be proactive instead of reactive.
- Be prepared for an endless PR cycle: No matter how well you promote your division or department at the outset, get ready to do that over and over and over again, building upon any positive momentum that you have. Simply making one attempt at PR isn’t enough. If you do it well, learn from mistakes, and continue evolving your message for your audience, PR will become a more natural part of daily operations.