Professional communicators and marketers often struggle when talking to internal audiences. Our job is to communicate the organization’s message. We sometimes assume that employees are a dedicated group of people, hungry for information from higher up. That assumption can get us into a lot of trouble. Here are a few ideas that may help:

1. Internal audiences are no different than external audiences.

We’re not selling a product, but we are marketing an idea, a point of view or a change in behavior. Management usually wants employees to take an action, to do something differently, to see a situation in a new light, or get on board with a change in strategy or workflow. We want employees to see the value in our message. That leads us to point number two:

2. What’s in it for me?

If we can’t answer that question for employees — just as we would for any other target audience — most of them just won’t listen. We might as well talk to a wall. Employees must see a direct, personal benefit or they will ignore us. Highlight information that helps them do their jobs better, faster or more easily.

3. Connect employees to the big picture — the organization’s products, customers or mission.

This is another kind of message that grabs employee attention. By showing employees how they help the company succeed, we validate their labor. They see their value to the organization. We all want to know that what we do makes a difference.

4. Focus on your objectives — What do you want to change?

Successful internal communications accomplish organizational goals. Know what you want employees to do, and then create an appealing message that encourages them to take the necessary action. Show them how they will benefit.

5. Keep it simple and memorable.

Employees may be a captive audience, but we can’t force them to embrace or retain management’s pronouncements. The message must be short. Get to the point right away. And avoid the temptation to pile multiple messages into a single vehicle.

Craft the message with as much care as you would for consumers, with rhythmic copy, engaging visuals, clear benefits, and a straightforward call to action. Deliver the message as part of a campaign, with enough reach and frequency to drive the message home.

Successful internal communications campaigns require as much planning and effort as an external campaign. What have you found that helps communicate with internal audiences? Have you used surveys or other target market research to develop effective messaging? I’d like to hear.