Someone Tell the Librarian—Are You Doing These 3 Things to Enhance Your Internal Communications?

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by Amanda Cleary Eastep

It was my lucky day.

At least that’s what the neon yellow piece of paper sticking out of the library book said.

Your Lucky Day Collection

The medieval mystery sounded interesting and the perfect book for a weekend in Michigan. So, with unexpected fortune in my cards and a winner’s spring in my step, I headed to the front desk.

“This is a Lucky Day Collection,” the librarian said with the kind of enthusiasm you only find in the city morgue.

Feeling guilty that I didn’t read the explanation on the lower half of the yellow paper, I kindly asked her to explain.

“You can only check out the book for five days, it’s non-renewable, and the fine is $2 per day.”

My enthusiasm now matching hers I replied, “Wow, it’s my lucky day all right.”

“Do you want the book?”

Tempting, but… I wasn’t convinced by her soggy sales pitch. Should I tell her that my expectations as a library patron and taxpayer were not being met? Should I give her a few pointers on marketing her product?

And what about the guy in library marketing? He was probably up in his office envisioning people lined up to get their hands on those yellow-ticketed new arrivals and thinking, “It’ll be just like the ‘free chicken sandwiches for a year’ campaign that had folks camped out all weekend to be the first 100 customers at the new Chick-fil-A!”

Then I wondered. Have I ever been that guy? Have you?

There are ways to gauge if your customers are “getting” the message. You get it; heck, you live and breathe your branding messages or that new campaign slogan. They are printed on neon green paper and tacked to your cubicle wall. Your daughter cross-stitched and framed them for your birthday.

But are your employees getting the message? 

How would the guy in IT describe your company or product or service? What about the assistant in the business office?

How is your “librarian” helping to move your potential “best-seller”?

That Lucky Day Collection campaign should have made me thrilled to have snagged the newest-arrival-hot-off-the-press-best-seller-in-three-states-and-Canada medieval mystery. But it didn’t. Someone didn’t tell the librarian how to communicate the benefits to the customer. Or maybe the benefits were overshadowed by the penalties. Or maybe she’s just a curmudgeon.

Let’s assume in this scenario that what we have is a lack of internal communication.

Marketing internally can be as important as marketing externally so that your customer has a consistent experience. Here are a few ways to enhance your internal communications, no matter your intended message:

1. Go organicMy dad often tells the story of his first date. The moral: never order pizza with piping hot cheese when you want to impress a girl. Everyone in our family knows the story. We can relate it to any person who will listen. Maybe not with the same level of drama he exhibits when scalding dairy product adheres to chin…but close. So, tell your story often and consistently to your internal audience (some dramatic yelping may help), always planting the seeds and helping the message take root naturally. As long as what you say is backed up by who you are, your employees will be sharing the same story that you are with customers.

One way to do it: E-mail announcements or links to recent web stories or new online publications through your e-lists. Few employees regularly check the company homepage, but everyone checks their e-mail. Each time I do this, I receive some “thanks for sharing” replies.

2. Lead—or invite yourself to—meetings—A town hall-style meeting, preferably accompanied by cookies, can sometimes be an effective venue for explaining everything from a new campaign to post-board meeting updates. But I find that this doesn’t always encourage open questions from attendees. Key people visiting each department to communicate their special project and ask for feedback does.

One way to do it: After two people from our organization developed a new initiative, they systematically presented the nearly final draft to every other department. Requesting 10 minutes of regular staff meetings, they first offered an e-mailed preview of their proposal, then presented a brief synopsis at the meeting and WELCOMED feedback from others before writing a final version. Weeks later, I witnessed key messages from their proposal being integrated into the external communications and initiatives of other departments.

3. Share special publications–That beautiful and glossy five-year strategic plan booklet doesn’t have to be handed out to only board members, donors, and investors. Special publications can provide a greater level of detail or–just the opposite–provide the most important points of complex strategies or campaigns. Use them as part of organic messaging and in conjunction with verbal communication efforts.    

One way to do it: Special documents, like the proposal from #2, will give all the details an employee could ever want to know. Other publications, such as that glossy strategic plan booklet, are effective visual aids for, in this case, outlining the goals of an organization so that everyone can understand the overall vision and consider their part in realizing it. But make it personal, don’t just stuff those puppies in employee mailboxes. Even with a recurring publication like our biannual magazine, I discovered that hand delivering as many as possible elicits a reaction that borders on “This must be my lucky day…” 

What are some ways you are communicating the message to your internal audience? (Sticky notes don’t count.)

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5 thoughts on “Someone Tell the Librarian—Are You Doing These 3 Things to Enhance Your Internal Communications?

  1. These are good reminders, Word Ninja. It’s so easy to forget the importance of marketing to staff—because we assume they get it, or we believe it’s their responsibility to generate their own enthusiasm for our big ideas. Internal marketing takes time and intentionality, but the result is exponential evangelism as they go out and share authentically to people we could never reach through “official” marketing channels.

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    1. Thanks, Melanie. Interesting term–exponential evangelism. As to “sharing authentically,” people–whether employees or customers–will do that when their experience is authentic. I know I “market” best that which I believe in.

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  2. Wow, this is so good! I must save this article and share it with my co-workers. We really have some work to do. Your “Lucky Day”-story is so great: it really catches the problem with lack of internal communication.

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