7 Hallmarks of Great Internal Communication

Creating an effective B2B story is more than just targeting customers and segments. It means developing a story to engage your employees. After all, they are the front line with your customers. Paul Barton, an internal communication expert who has worked with companies like Hawaiian Airlines, Pet Smart and America West share (7) hallmarks for creating an effective internal communication strategy.

Internal Communications Consultant

internal communication employees

Great internal communication is about:

  1. Communication (without an “s”) where the emphasis is on an ongoing strategic process, not about communications where the focus is on individual tactics.
  2. Influencing, including and listening to achieve employee engagement, not commanding and controlling to obtain task compliance.
  3. Communicating the “what” and the “why” like a business partner, not just the “what.”
  4. Speaking to hearts and heads to encourage action, not just speaking to heads to inform.
  5. Integrating and coordinating messaging with feedback built into the process, not one-off and fragmented communications.
  6. Having established “rules and tools” that serve as a foundation for flawless communication, not undocumented processes and off-the-cuff rules.
  7. Getting through to internal audiences to achieve meaningful outcomes, not just focusing on measurable outputs.

What other characteristics do you think belong on this list of hallmarks of great internal communication?

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How To Capture and Hold Anyone’s Attention

Kid with Megaphone

Many, including some TIME Magazine articles, have argued people’s attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter.  But, in fact, I’d argue the explosion of media competing for our attention simply makes it more difficult to capture a person’s attention.

This post by Daniel Goleman, author of FOCUS:  The Hidden Driver of Excellence explores capturing attention by triggering the the orienting response in the brain and how some Vine posts are taking advantage of it to capture millions of followers and become web sensations.

Additionally, he discusses how important it suddenly becomes once you do capture someone’s attention to have a “story” to tell to engage them.  There are valuable for marketers trying to stand out from the crowd and to engage prospects.  So, take a look.

Re-blogged from LinkIn:  How to Capture and Hold Anyone’s Attention.

Learn more about the “Orienting Response” on Wikipedia.  It’s something that could help you stand out from the crowd.

How Emotions Impact B2B.

Upshot_redballSMALL

Proving the Value of Emotion in B2B Marketing Communications

Most B2B marketing seems to be targeting robots. Packed with product features, advantages and benefits, it avoids “emotional entanglements” and strictly focuses on the rationale aspect of purchasing.

But business people are human first.  And humans are emotional. The way someone “feels” about your brand or even the “mood” they’re in when approached makes all the difference on how likely they are to purchase .  

Upshot, a marketing agency in Chicago, released this study demonstrating rationally and with qualitative research that affecting emotions is a more effective way to influence B2B decisions.  

Their major takeaways:

1.  The widely held belief that B2B decision making is rational and pragmatic is wrong.

Just as in consumer marketing, the research proved that emotion is a powerful tool and deeply affects the way business decision makers react to marketing communications.

2.  Effective B2B marketing should affect the target’s emotions while delivering its selling message.

Creators of marketing communications should work to inspire their audience with their creativity, be it a conference event, a web site, a sales presentation or advertising.

So, remember to engage them emotionally when your planning your next B2B marketing campaign.  

Brand stories cut to the “heart” of the matter.

Core Values - Image 2 - Reduced Size

Core values are the beating heart of every business. Genuine core values will capture the imagination and passions of employees. Customers should feel those values in every interaction with the company, its personnel and its products. But how do you tell the story of a core value?

When Liberty Mutual’s “Half an Acre” ad first appeared about 7 years ago, I’d actually stop whatever I was doing to watch it. I’d  even watch the entire show in hopes of seeing it again. Not because of the music (which, by the way, is great for this) or the production value or the fact that it was a 60 second ad in a world of thirty and fifteen second spots. I watched because the STORY simply mesmerized me and tied so well to a core value of the company.

Liberty Mutual’s Culture and Value Statement includes: “WE BEHAVE WITH INTEGRITY. We are in the business of trust. Our most important promise is that we will strive to do the right thing, always.

Now, this ad is nothing more than nine vignettes of common people helping others. But it tells the  story of how “doing the right thing” is contagious and has a karmic way of coming back to you. A story that resonates in the heart of anyone who’s ever held a door for a stranger loaded down with groceries or stopped to help collect someone’s fallen papers.  And this simple story speaks volumes to the values of the company.

Many people think a brand story has to begin with “Once upon a time” or “Our founder believed”. But, in fact, a brand story can be as close as the value statement hanging in your lobby and is told in the actions of the people who share and demonstrate that value every single day to your customers. There’s an engaging brand story you should think about telling.

Template for Storytelling

Storytelling can be a powerful tool for institutionalizing best practices, communicating cultural values and even building a stronger brand image for your organization.  The American Society for Training & Development has  a simple “Storytelling Job Aid” to help companies capture stories.  I really enjoyed this blog including that storytelling template and hope you will find it useful.

Starry Blue Brilliance

Storytelling is a compelling and effective way to engage employees. The attached template published by the American Society for Training & Development can help you identify, create and track your organization’s stories. Once you uncover and document key stories, you can use them to support your communication strategy.

Storytelling Job Aid

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A Brand Needs a Story

Once Upon a Time

Stories are important to brands. And, years ago, I learned just how important.

I worked for a company whose name was always being mispronounced. Every new prospect would mispronounce our name and even many of our longtime clients would get it wrong. We were in the business of putting together communications campaigns and promotions branded in the client’s name. So, just how important was it for them to get our name right?  Most people at the company just laughed about it and didn’t seem to care what they called us as long as the checks cleared. But for some reason it always annoyed me.

So, I took to telling a little story about the company when I’d meet people for the first time. The firm actually started as a watch shop.  The family was Swiss and would import watch parts into the US from the old country.   They would assemble the watches and sell them in their shop. They’d been doing this for about 35 years when the depression came along and practically no one could afford their watches.  In desperation, one of the founder’s sons starting taking his watches from company to company and sold them as employee retirement gifts. That’s how the tradition of giving an expensive watch as a retirement gift began… a desperate man trying to figure out a way to sell his wares.

In telling the story, I’d say the family name three times.  Afterwards, something amazing happened.  The people who heard the story would always pronounce the company name correctly, and they always remembered the story practically verbatim.  It even got the point where people would introduce me to their colleagues and tell the retirement watch story for me.

That’s what taught me just how important a story is to a brand.  If you’re just a name, why get it right?  But, if there’s an engaging story behind the name, it elevates the brand to almost mythical proportions.

What’s your brand’s engaging story?

Story Sells

Stories at Work

Re-blogged from LinkedIn:   Story Sells 

In the virtual world, we may search for a product, but remember we stay for the stories.

I’m always looking for insightful ways business engage their customers. and thought this insight from Mr. Hiroshi Mikitani, Chairman & CEO of Rakuten holds a lesson for all B2B Marketers.

He recently blogged about  a Japanese fabric company experiencing enormous success by telling the company story rather than simply focusing on products.   I encourage you to check it out.

Rakuten is the largest e-commerce company in Japan, and third largest e-commerce marketplace company worldwide.

Storytelling engages and sells all around the globe!!!!

Storytelling … the Lost Art of Engagement

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When you talk about storytelling in business, you get some strange looks. Most people automatically think of fables, fantasy and fiction when you say storytelling. But storytelling is deeply rooted in the human experience not only as a way to entertain, but to communicate truths, lessons and experience from one person to another.

But what makes it important in today’s business? Simply this, storytelling is an intimate art form that engages groups of people with common concerns, interests and values.  Listening to stories is deeply embedded in the human psyche.  We’re not wired to remember obscure facts and details.  But we are wired to remember stories.

So, let me tell you a story…

My family is from eastern Kentucky deep within the Appalachian mountains. This is a very isolated area and most of the families there could trace their history back for generations. The mountains and valleys made it difficult to access and modern conveniences like electricity and running water were slow to arrive. Even when I was a child in the sixties, my grandparents home had no running water.

I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid, and one of my jobs was to draw water. That meant taking buckets to a small, cramped shed called the well house, lowering a long, skinny tube down a small hole in the ground and hauling the water back up to fill the buckets for the day’s drinking and cooking needs.  This was coal country. And while the well water was sparkling clean, it always shimmered with a golden hue from the sulphur it collected deep underground.  A color that stained the inside of the water pails and dippers and that I vividly remember even today.

With the exception of the bible, there were few books in each home.  The small local newspaper was a weekly and contained few stories from outside the county line.   But, there was a rich oral storytelling tradition and each evening people of all ages would gather on dimly lit porches to tell and listen to stories.

The stories ran the gamut from epic adventures of man vs. the wild to everyday tales of hardships and struggles . There were ghost stories that captured the imagination. Histories of feuding families and mountain romances to rival Romeo and Juliet. Tragedies of illness and the triumphs of overcoming handicaps. Cautionary tales of greed leading to arguments and violence between friends and family.  And the roar of laughter filled the darkness when the comic adventures of long dead loved ones were told again and again.

Over forty years have passed since I sat on those porches, yet I can still tell most of the stories exactly as I heard them.  While you might easily discount this as the fond memories of childhood, I believe those stories are memorable because they were always woven into a specific context and richly accented with details to create an unforgettable picture in my mind. Brands spend millions to create these images, yet these people created them with simple stories.

As B2B marketers, we should embrace storytelling.  

Today’s world of social media, websites and blog pages are really just online dimly lit porches beckoning to weary surfers.  Their visitors are actively hoping to learn more, find answers or feel some type of empathy and understanding. But far too often, they find mind-numbing lists of product features, contrived customer benefits, cryptic case studies and an endless string of the latest overused “buzz” words that may sound impressive but convey no meaningful message.

Try a quick test with me.

In my story, do you remember

  • The color of the water?
  • The book in every home?
  • The state my family is from?

These were all very small details, but important to help paint a picture and create a context.

A story creates paints a picture visitors remember.

Stories need context to convey a point and enough details to create texture and paint a picture for your audience. They don’t have to be long, but they do have to be relevant. It’s much easier to list out product features, advantages and benefits than to weave a story about your product.  But in our electronic age of storytelling, hearing your story is the first step in making a personal connection with your next prospect.

So, tell me your story.

What bar talk can teach us about B2B Communications.

The Bar is Open Sign

You can learn a lot about communications just by striking up a conversation with the person sitting on the next bar stool. Let’s face it, expectations are pretty low for bar talk. No one seriously plans on solving the world’s problems or finding their next best friend swilling a Long Island iced tea in the local gin mill. Normally, a bar chat is just a  pleasant diversion as you wait for your best friend to arrive.

But, I guarantee striking up a conversation at the lounge can be invaluable in learning about disengaging an audience. Let’s look at three types of people who will make you start fidgeting right after you begin talking to them and see what they can teach us.

The Egotist

Initially, the egotist is very entertaining. Who wouldn’t want to hear their story about running a marathon or their adventures in Paris? But after  a few minutes the “I” at the beginning of each sentence starts grating on me. Suddenly, I’m more interested in my swizzle stick than in the egoists conquests and find myself casing the joint for exits.

B2B communications often falls into the same egotist trap. How many presentations, brochures  and websites begin with a list of the company’s size and accomplishments? Remember, a prospective customer has a problem they need solved. What’s most important is how you can help. Highlight your accomplishments to add credibility to your solutions rather than making them the whole story.

The Know-it-All

No matter the subject, the know-it-all can tell you all about it. They’re filled with mostly useless data and have the most obscure dates in history right at their fingertips. The know-it-all will engage you, but not in a good way. If you’re like me, you start looking for mistakes you can point out to put them in their place rather than really paying attention to the context of the discussion.

B2B communications often depends on data to prove a point. Facts and data appeal to the rational left side of your brain. But data can be analyzed and interpreted in a number of ways. Just look at politics and how different parties will spin the same data to justify their stance. So, don’t be like the know-it-all and depend only on facts and data. Have a “point of view” that creates an emotional tie as well. Be passionate about your point of view and use facts to back it up.

The Space Invader

When you strike up a conversation with the space invader, they move in on you fast.  They get into your personal space and even worse start asking all kinds of very personal questions very quickly.  This just sends a chill up my spine.  I’ve actually gotten off  the bar stool and used it as a shield to keep a space invader at bay.

Don’t forget, most B2B prospects won’t buy immediately. They’re looking for a solution and need to research their options.  Retail websites are geared toward gaining an immediate sale. B2B communications look to create long-term business relationships and  must be much more subtle in their approach. Good B2B marketers look for ways to engage prospects in a dialogue to answer questions and educate first. Over the long haul, this builds lasting relationships and not simply pressured and transient short-term sales.

B2B Communications create interpersonal relationships.

The point is B2B communications are no different than building an interpersonal relationship.  Your audience reacts to both the content and tone of your message.  Think carefully about how you construct your message and look at it from the perspective of your audience.  Will they be put off by your tone? Do you choke them with facts and data? Do you seem a little to eager to close a sale?

So, next time you find yourself sitting at the bar waiting for a friend, engage the person next to you in conversation.  You’ll be amazed at what you could learn about disengaging or maybe even engaging your B2B prospects.