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The role of internal comms in building an organisational culture in the creative sector

Marketers, PR professionals, designers and creatives are often thought of as having their ‘external comms’ heads on at all times. After all, the world of creative agencies is typically about devising compelling stories, packaging them up in unique ways, and sending them out into the world to reach a business or brand’s audience with the desired impact. 

But when it comes down to it, how we communicate internally – with our colleagues or employees – is as important as how we communicate with the rest of the world – and it can have a knock-on effect on both the calibre of the creative work we produce and the organisational cultures we foster. 

Internal communications isn’t just about sharing the latest news and updates with your team. It’s about investing in learning and development, working collaboratively wherever it’s possible and productive, seeking to refine and evaluate that work, and putting company values and ethos into practice. 

That last point is probably the most important – when we promote shared values and give employees the tools to succeed in working towards a common goal, we make the most out of our external communications, too. 

In short: if we’re not all singing from the same hymn sheet, we might as well be singing in different choirs. Or churches. There was a working metaphor in there somewhere… 

So, settle down, get yourself comfortable, and strap in for a sunshine tour of internal communications in the creative sector – and, crucially, how this impacts on how organisations operate and the cultures they promote.

Putting values into practice 

It’s easy for a lot of businesses to talk the talk when it comes to their values and ethos, but walking the walk is another thing entirely. From pledges of sustainability and corporate social responsibility to shouting from the rafters about diversity in recruitment, businesses often want to be seen to be progressive without putting in (much) of the legwork to get there. 

People are savvier than they’ve been in the past, and they want to see the preaching (and advertising) put into action. This is especially true of employees… With big conversations taking place in all sectors about the importance of issues that affect the planet and its people, employees are looking to their organisations to back up their commitments with tangible initiatives that deliver the outputs promised. They want to see an organisational culture that they’re proud to be a part of. 

Corporate social responsibility isn’t a box that can be ticked, nor can it be fulfilled by throwing around buzzwords and jargon – actions need to be taken and employees need to see values being prioritised. This means genuine commitments communicated effectively to employees so that they can embody these in the work they do.

Communicating in the digital age 

It might seem like an obvious one, but communication between employees and employers has never been more important. Over the last year, in which many of us have had to adapt to remote working as standard practice in our organisations, various online platforms and channels have become commonplace for the modern workforce and have become pivotal in making employees feel connected to company culture. 

From Zoom and Teams to Trello and Slack, there are a whole host of video conferencing, instant messaging and virtual project management tools that have found their way into the workplace as day-to-day necessities. And for good reason. Not only have they been vital given the social parameters imposed by the pandemic, but they’ve also proven themselves to be a pretty convenient way of sharing information quickly and efficiently among colleagues and stakeholders, alongside more traditional methods of internal campaign delivery. 

As we move into an age of increased workplace flexibility, with many people opting for a mix of office and remote working, we might see these communications tools being used a little less. But will they ever find themselves back on the shelf? It seems unlikely. With a workplace revolution taking place, now more than ever, these technologies will be fundamental to good business, employee connectedness, and communication in the digital age.

Collaboration is key

Most people working in the creative sector will be used to a certain degree of flexibility in the workplace. From copywriters dabbling in design to videographers feeding into marketing strategy, it’s becoming increasingly common to see fewer defined parameters in creative roles. And this is a great thing in terms of building a solid organisational culture. 

When employees working in different departments and disciplines work together, they learn from each other. And, in doing so, they will often produce better results. The key to great work is collaboration – and playing to the strengths within the team – and this is something that ought to be encouraged within organisations if they want to succeed in the contemporary creative landscape. 

In practice, this means those in senior leadership roles fostering a strong culture of teamwork and collaboration through company initiatives. These might include actively encouraging cross-departmental interaction and idea-sharing; holding informal sessions where teams feed back to one another and share updates on project progress; or setting aside dedicated time for creative brainstorming sessions. 

Employees often have a range of skills and abilities that fall outside of their immediate job role – to not provide an opportunity for open discussion and knowledge sharing is to ignore the wealth of experience we absorb and carry with us throughout our working lives. Tapping into that is central to the most successful workplace cultures. 

Celebrating successes and learning from downfalls

One of the key ways in which internal communications actively contribute towards a positive organisational culture is through the sharing, and celebration of, team successes. When we communicate positive updates widely throughout companies, including to those who aren’t directly involved with particular projects or clients, it helps to boost morale and bring employees together through shared successes and milestones reached. 

However, some of the biggest learnings come from our failings. The way we talk about our perceived downfalls and failures is equally as important as the discussions around our successes. Evaluating things that didn’t go as planned is as much a uniting experience as celebrating our successes. It’s an opportunity to learn, to reflect, to work out what could be done better in future, and to think about our approaches and practices. 

This is something that leadership teams can, and should, be integrating into internal communications strategies as standard practice. If organisations in the creative sector want to bring their employees together as a team, be ambitious and achieve results, then acknowledging downfalls is key to ensuring the attainment of success.

 


 

Lorna Young, Marketing Director at Kenyons, has spent over ten years working on internal communications projects and she highlights the importance of understanding how internal activities have a knock-on effect on both organisational culture and commercial output: 

“Internal communications impact on everything within a business. They ensure all staff pull together to deliver successful outputs in a commercial sense, but also in broader, more meaningful ways. These include teams working together towards shared values, understanding the company mission, and understanding how and where their individual roles sit within the bigger organisational picture. 

The role internal communications plays in the culture of a business can’t be overstated. Nurtured appropriately, they can establish a positive working environment, bringing clarity, transparency and trust to organisations. Good communication always starts internally. Your external output will ultimately be weakened if your internal communications are not strong.”

 


 

So, what next? 

In a changed working world, in which increased flexibility and adaptability are key to sustaining the modern workforce, internal communications have never been more important. 

The increase in remote working might mean that colleagues are physically apart, but that doesn’t mean that that distance needs to translate into the way we communicate internally. Now, more than ever, organisations have to focus on fostering positive working relationships, building a culture of:  

  • respect and transparency underpinned by values-led action 
  • celebrating successes and losses in productive and positive ways 
  • learning from one another at every available avenue. 

Because, without all of this, commercial success will undoubtedly suffer. For companies in the creative sector to succeed, internal communications need to be prioritised in the same way that external communications are. Only then will this positively affect creative outputs and ensure that businesses cultivate positive organisational cultures in meaningful and material ways.

Internal communications isn’t just about sharing the latest news and updates with your team. It’s about investing in learning and development, working collaboratively wherever it’s possible and productive, seeking to refine and evaluate that work, and putting company values and ethos into practice.