There was a time when internal communications consisted entirely of dull dictates of the ’now wash your hands’ variety. Shot out by the human resources department with a wagging finger inferred, these commands were ignored, derided or both.
But like many other areas of branding and communications, internal communications has grown up. Specialist consultancies now produce witty, award-winning multimedia work that helps embattled organisations and entire industries improve their working practices. Some internal communications specialists are even reporting dramatic rises in fees.
’The days of internal communications being just a newsletter or a health and safety poster are long behind us, as people realise that successful brands come from within,’ says Martin Knight, managing director of Bristol-based Home, which reports a 42 per cent rise in turnover and about a 35 per cent rise in fees in the past year.
Internal communications consultancies today boast film departments, and use film, animation, e-mail, magazines and environmental graphics as well as tone of voice and humour to persuade people to think differently about their work.
Internal communications group Redhouse Lane has designed a campaign for McDonald’s that aims to educate its European restaurant staff on the company’s facts and figures. Instead of an e-mailed PDF of dull graphs, ’We have taken some very boring statistics and turned them into a dynamic, colourful Flash animation that is appealing to look at and set to music,’ says Ian Samuels of Redhouse Lane.
The days of internal communications being just a newsletter or a health and safety poster are long gone
In an internal campaign originally created for Barclays, highlighting the importance of data protection, Blue Goose used humour, putting stickers in the office toilets that read, ’Think Privacy’. The consultancy created an environmental graphic that wraps around wall corners in Barclays offices, showing a CD on one side and a circular saw on the other, ’representing how dangerous data can be in the wrong hands’, says Blue Goose account director Matt Pepper.
’It’s not just about what people see, but it’s when, how and where they see it,’ he adds.
The Think Privacy campaign launch also involved staff being security-tagged as they left the building rather than on entry, to remind them to keep their laptops or USBs safe and encrypted.
Says Pepper, ’Where legal and compliance issues are involved, businesses have been much more comfortable with dry, straightforward, black-and-white messages, but clients are starting to realise that creativity works better.
He is full of praise for ’courageous clients that can give us their backing and who trust that creativity can pay huge dividends’, and credits the internal communications revolution that has taken place with the fact that human resources and communications departments now work much more closely than they used to.
However, many internal communications consultancies are reporting that financially challenged clients are demanding much more bang for far less buck.
M-Four is Manchester City Council’s in-house design and communications team. Its work for the council is unusually daring, rich and stylish. Its recent campaign, M-People, seeks to encourage staff under threat of redundancy to retrain to work in different departments.
’We’ve done some really nice work on creating a brand for that,’ says M-Four’s Ian Smith. ’But we are working to much tighter budgets now, and being told to use old photography, which is very challenging as we have come so far in the level and standard of work and don’t want to go backwards.’
Jeremy Redhouse, of Redhouse Lane, says, ’In times of lay-offs, organisations worry about communicating the redundancies to the people left behind and about reassuring them that their jobs are safe. A wise company will invest in internal communications at a time like this.’
’We have created a pioneering project, and it’s marvellous’
Matt Pepper, Blue Goose
Perhaps one of the most successful internal communications campaigns ever created is Blue Goose’s Think Privacy campaign, which won a Design Business Association Design Effectiveness Award in 2010.
Originally produced to raise awareness of data security among Barclays staff, the campaign led to the formation of an inter-bank group called the Think Privacy Consortium, initiated by Barclays and now including HSBC, Deloitte, Visa Europe, Serco, Lloyds Banking Group and Blue Goose.
Subsequently, Blue Goose debranded the campaign and the consortium made the branding available as a kit of parts for any organisation to download from the