When we talk about content marketing, we share tips and advice on strategy, audience building, distribution, and ROI. We discuss the content we create and who we are targeting, but we rarely do so in the context of internal communications.
Whether we work for a large enterprise or a small start-up, internal communication is a critical function. Especially for companies running global content marketing programs, it’s critical to establish internal communication channels between teams. This will ensure that everyone knows the latest information about content processes, frameworks, methodologies, and best practices.
One solution: use content marketing tactics internally. Email newsletters, content hubs, and apps are all great ways to solve internal communications challenges and keep employees and partners aligned.
Using Email Newsletters for B2B Internal Communications
When I was VP of Content Marketing at Schneider Electric – a large energy company with more than 150,000 employees and an internal population of thousands of marketers – my team had to prioritize internal communications.
In fact, our first challenge was to inform and educate regional marketing teams about the global content marketing program we had just launched. We had to explain why we moved from a traditional, campaign-based methodology to an always-on content marketing model. We also had to share new processes, frameworks, tools, and goals.
The content team created, in cooperation with internal communications and HR, an internal bi-weekly content marketing newsletter called “The Content Strategist.” Why send a newsletter to employees? Why not just use existing internal sites or collaboration tools? Here are some of the reasons:
- Internal newsletters reduce email overload. Instead of sending multiple, one-off notices, an email newsletter is a more efficient way of distributing information.
- Internal newsletters are trusted sources. Especially when coming from an established leader, internal newsletters are seen as impactful and relevant.
- Newsletters break down silos. Email newsletters can encourage conversations among employees belonging to different countries, divisions, or departments.
- Internal newsletters help build champions. A continuous flow of information to the right employees will facilitate change and accelerate adoption of new programs.
- Newsletters supplement other forms of communications: Although we had our own section on the company intranet and regular video conference calls with main stakeholders, the newsletter was the most successful and impactful tool.
Since our objective was to increase awareness of our global content marketing program, we structured the bi-weekly newsletter so it covered the following sections and topics:
- Main editorial update
- Link to the editorial calendar
- Content roadmap: what marketers should expect in the following weeks
- Links to curated content produced in the previous two weeks: big rock content, social media posts, blog posts, whitepapers
- Voices from the countries: interesting stories and best practices from the countries participating in the content marketing program
- If available, news on marketing initiatives and overarching corporate campaigns
- Executive summary of content performance and KPIs
- Who to contact to get information about content marketing initiatives
The first three sections were recurring – and all newsletters should have some. In fact, when readers are familiar with regular newsletter features, they tend to remember them better. Because we had new subscribers every week, we had to continuously communicate the existence of the editorial calendar and content roadmap. At the same time, we had to keep the newsletter feeling fresh.
Having a steady stream of communication – never missing a deadline, even if collecting content from different teams and sources was a challenge – helped us convey the same message across all geographies. AJ Huisman of YContent, an expert in global content marketing programs, suggests to “establish clear lines of communications and to secure mutual understanding beyond the time zones. Also, a proper internal communication plan will help to get to that point faster.”
Our content newsletter became a success just after few months: the initial audience grew five times larger and we had an average open rate of 80 percent. After six months and with thousand readers, Schneider Electric’s CMO mentioned our newsletter as an innovative and efficient means of internal communications.
Using Email Newsletters for B2C Internal Communications
An email newsletter can also be an effective tool for collaborating with partners. Let’s take the example of a large global insurance company with whom I worked. They had to solve this problem: How to inform local agents on a weekly basis about the new content that was available and ready to be shared around the globe.
Despite a digital platform connecting remote agents across the enterprise, the company decided to launch multiple newsletters, one for each country piloting the content marketing program. (The company started a regional marketing program with two countries, one in Europe and one in Asia, before going regional and then global.) The central team created the newsletter template and design, and produced the weekly corporate message and editorial. Then, each country had the option to personalize content to secure a closer and more intimate connection with local agents.
The newsletter was structured to cover the following topics:
- Main editorial summary from corporate, to be customized by the local team
- Link to the editorial calendar
- Available content, updated every week, with suggestions and priorities, in terms of sharing
- If available, news on local marketing initiatives and overarching corporate campaigns
- Local contacts
The agents are now always aware of the fresh content they can share with clients on a weekly basis.
Using a Content Hub and Apps for B2B Internal Communications
Email is not the only tactic used for internal communications. GE, for instance, has used its internal content hub to educate a specific set of employees – union employees – on an upcoming labor contract vote. The campaign’s internal hub and app were designed specifically for these employees, with the goal of being a comprehensive information source about the contracts. The site received more than 65,000 hits and nearly 50 percent of users were repeat visitors.
This internal content program was part of a GE’s larger initiative to deliver value for its employees, which included the development of an internal platform, “My GE,” where people could share their own stories. The program was so innovative and effective that GE won PR Week’s “2016 Internal Communications Campaign of the Year” award.
Just because these tactics are used for employees or local partners, they shouldn’t be considered minor programs or taken for granted. They play an important role in building internal champions and, often, furthering your content marketing goals – so they should be thoughtfully planned and crafted.