Internal Communications Best Practice: 14 Examples of Campaigns that Crushed it

Posted by Kath McNiff on May 10, 2019 10:33:04 AM
Kath McNiff

Crafting a compelling internal communication campaign is never easy - it requires clear objectives, stakeholder research, careful planning, and measurable outcomes.  

You have a job to do. 

Get your message across and make it stick.

Sounds simple enough, right?

But of course, it isn't.

Crafting a compelling internal communications campaign is tricky, it requires:

  • A clear objective

  • Stakeholder research

  • Thoughtful implementation

  • Measurable business impact

  • A sprinkle of creative magic

Sometimes you need a little inspiration.

Grab a coffee, sit back and see what best practice looks like.

1. HSBC Now: Photo Competition


The HSBC Global Communications team single-handedly transformed the bank’s visual language – with zero budget and crazy time pressures.

How?

They put content creation in the hands of their people.

The team launched a global photography competition asking employees to capture the spirit of HSBC – across six categories.

They ended up with over 6000 images - a truly inspiring result and a  testimony to the fact that real images resonate.

HSBC now uses these amazing photos throughout their internal comms – in presentations, reports, and the intranet.

Not only has the bank saved money on mediocre stock photos – they’ve raised the bar for employee engagement. People connect with the bigger picture of HSBC because they see themselves reflected in it.

A simple, yet award-winning campaign - small idea, big impact.

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2. Siemens Hull: Creating a Culture of Excellence

Employee heroes are at the center of this impressive campaign.

With over 1000 new employees, Siemens Hull was looking to forge a robust culture and bring their strategic vision to life.

In partnership with H&H internal communication agency, Hull combined eye-catching wall designs with employee insights to craft an immersive on-boarding experience.

Now, as team members walk from the car park, through the offices to the factory floor – they can see the corporate culture laid out before them – expressed in their own words with their own faces looking back at them.

Surreal, but effective!

See the blades of Hull's wind turbines reflected in the graphics? If you listen closely you just might hear them.

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3. Lowes: Customer Stories

Effective campaigns don’t always need big budgets and elaborate design.

Making the most of available resources can also deliver exceptional results.

Lowes Manhattan was looking for ways to become more customer focused and turned to their intranet as a platform for sharing customer stories.

They created ‘Customer Care News’ - a window into the customer experience. A simple yet effective way to acknowledge staff achievements while putting the customer front and center.

Whenever a customer gives a compliment or provides feedback, it’s published on the intranet – this serves as a great recognition system and a reminder of the importance of customer service.

Lowes also believe in the power of learning – and sees employees as the best educators. Their in-house product videos feature real product experts. Authentic and engaging – they’ve turned out to be one of the most popular features of the intranet.

Customer focus is key to business survival and success – building it into your company’s DNA, along with a healthy dose of employee engagement, makes anything possible.

4. MidMichigan Health: One Person, One Record

Major culture change can be stressful. 

How do you create engaging conversations from top-down directives?

The leadership team at MidMichigan Health was up against it.

Their existing medical record system was on the way out and they were tasked with uniting 7000 employees, physicians and volunteers to re-examine clinical and business workflows. All of this while continuing to provide top-notch patient care.

How on earth did they do it?

Well, as it happens, they left earth behind.

In collaboration with creative agency Bolger + Battle, the team launched a space-themed communications campaign One Person, One Record. They delivered it in four phases Kick-off, Mission Prep, Mission Control, and Lift-off.

The campaign got them recognized in the ‘Excellence in Change Communication’ category at the 2018 Gartner Internal Communication Awards.

The Space Mission was a genius metaphor for building excitement and setting a bold confident tone. Plus, it added an element of fun to an otherwise stressful situation.

The CEO wore a spacesuit to the kick-off – boldly going where no CEO has gone before.

5. Kerry Foods: Trailblazers

How do you foster employee engagement while innovating your way past the competition to deliver tangible business results?

Ask Kerry Foods for their secret recipe (sorry couldn’t resist).

In 2017, the team launched the Trailblazers campaign – asking employees to come up with new ideas for snacks, drinks, and technology that the company could take to market.

Drawing inspiration from Dragon’s Den – employees made their pitches, went on month-long bootcamps, and were given the space to develop ideas.

The campaign generated over 800 ideas from across the business and employee engagement scores went through the roof.

As HR Director, Emma Rose points out:

“The big thing about it was around building belief in the business that we want everyone to contribute to where we’re going and to be excited about the products we take to market.”

Trailblazers took out the coveted 2018 IOIC Grand Prix Award.

Seeing the pattern yet?

A winning campaign puts employees front and center - focusing on outcomes over output.

 

6. InnerSurf Online: Onboarding Check Sheet

It's no secret that new starter orientation is a crucial piece in the employee experience puzzle - but did you know that great onboarding can improve employee retention by a whopping 82%? 

Tracy Repchuk (founder of InnerSurf Online Brand & Web Services) was ahead of the game when her business launched the Staff Orientation Check Sheet.

A common sense idea that is anything but common.

Before starting anything else, new recruits are asked to work through this online resource - absorbing core values, filling out forms, learning about the website and getting familiar with everyday tools. 

Pulling everything together in one easily accessible place is a genius approach to new starter comms - it puts an end to first day jitters and sets employees up for ongoing success.

7. BC Pension: Podcasts

Business transformation can leave employees feeling confused and out of sorts.

As part of their nine-year plan, BC Pension took an innovative approach to turning overwhelmed employees into change advocates.

They launched two podcasts:

  • At the table with Laura – a thought-leadership series featuring CEO, Laura Nashman, in discussion with change management experts.

  • StaffCast - a podcast showcasing employee’s perspectives on the changes taking place.

The first podcast, with the CEO, assures employees that their leaders understand change management and are across the best practices. It builds trust and aids transparency.

The second gives a voice to the people on the front line of change. It helps employees to understand how they matter in the grand scheme of things and provides a forum for sharing concerns, strategies and personal stories.

Strong leadership and engaged employees – an unstoppable combination.

This initiative won BC Pension first place in the ‘Podcast’ category of Ragan’s Employee Communication awards.

Not sure if it won any awards, but their company video is pretty inspiring too! 

8. West Midlands Trains: ‘Hear to Listen’ Mental Health Campaign

During a period of franchise change, West Midlands Railway knew that employees would need on-going support to handle the changes. This grew into a broader message about mental health and the power of listening.

To make the message stick, the team wanted to embed it into the business they wanted to 'walk the talk'.

The campaign started with educating senior managers to be Mental Health First Aiders – giving them the skills to deal with people in crisis, tackle stigma and facilitate difficult conversations.

In an RSSB blog post, Lesley Health, Head of Safety & Environment says:

“Hear to listen” isn’t even about mental health per se, but about saying we’re operating in a culture that wants to sit down and talk with you about how you are” 

The idea is symbolized in a super-simple but totally effective speech bubble logo – that employees can wear as a badge.

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Storytelling is a crucial component of the campaign – with employees volunteering to tell their personal stories in videos that are shared on the company intranet.

Mental well-being is about more than ‘10 tips to relieve stress’ or branded yoga mats. It’s about incrementally building a culture of trust – combining switched-on senior management with employees who are empowered to tell their stories.

9. Herbert Smith Freehills: Cyber Sharp Campaign

We know the topic of cyber security is important, we do. It’s just that it can be a little…dry.

How do you deliver engaging outcomes-focused comms for techy subjects?

You get hands-on like the team at Herbert Smith Freehills (in collaboration with communication specialists at Blue Goose).

Employees attended training sessions relating to common security concerns like phishing, and information management – and took part in interactive and eye-opening small group exercises. Including a facilitator who used social engineering techniques to convince participants he already knew them!

This communications initiative won an IOIC award for being engaging and approachable – with an excellent use of personas to simulate different risk scenarios, well thought-out exercises, and appealing branded animation.

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10. Actelion: Multi-faceted Campaign

In the lead up to launching Uptavi, a new drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension, Actelion wanted to educate, engage and energise their employees.

They embarked on a multi-faceted internal communications campaign – with the help of Employee Experience agency, Vignette.

Under the mantra of ‘More is Possible’, the team pulled together a variety of elements for maximum impact. Including a microsite, intranet home page elements and visual workplace disruptions that were installed on windows, floors, and stairs around the office.

Relying on the power of gamification, they also developed an interactive quiz released weekly over 10 weeks – with weekly winners and prizes.

The engaging campaign reminded employees of their common purpose – it helped them to see the impact of Actelion’s innovations and the part they played in bringing ideas to life.

Actelion-Employee-Engagement-Campaign-2

11. Asendia: Gamification

Things were changing at Asendia - a world leading provider of mail services. Core products across e-commerce, publishing, and marketing were aligning and employees needed to understand and engage with the changes.

The Think Tank stepped in to help get everyone on board. How?

With a board game, of course.

Really, it’s just one element in a broader training program – but the Asendia board game provides a fun way to communicate the changes while building engagement throughout the organization.

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12. Duarte Inc: Employee Recognition

Sometimes a simple mascot can make all the difference.

When a stressful time hit the team at Duarte - they decided a giraffe could help.

Huh?

Nancy Duarte, the company founder, was looking for a way to applaud and encourage her loyal workforce. A long time love of giraffes sparked an interesting idea - could they use this graceful creature as an award and/or company mascot?

The idea crystallized further when Duarte discovered that a herd of giraffes is called a tower - the perfect symbol of strength.

As she points out in this article by HR Daily Advisor:

"Giraffes live in groups, are not territorial, and rarely get into tussles—which seems like a fitting symbol for a collegial work environment".

But what's it called when you win an award at Duarte?

Giraffirmation, what else?

Giraffe-employee-recognition-2

13. Cotton On Group: Keeping it real

The Internal Communications team at Cotton On Group understand how crucial it is to put staff at the heart of every move they make. With 22,000 team members across 18 countries - this is no simple task.

Their 'Keeping it real' campaign echoed throughout the business - presenting employees as a force to be reckoned with. 

Cotton On Group use their intranet as a culture-building platform. As Group Digital Communications Manager, Rachel Jones puts it:

"It's a place to tell the stories of our brilliant team members - to celebrate their wins and to recognize the incredible things we achieve together as a global family." 

The integrated strategy includes a TV channel, artwork take-overs, and digital ad spaces - it's a digital playing field where teams can win over and over again.

Cotton On Best Internal Communications

14. Doc Martens: On the Record

Brand consultancy Music worked with clothing retailer Dr. Martens to develop its internal communications strategy.

As part of a year-long campaign, Music created 'On the Record' - an internal newspaper featuring articles written by employees.

To report on financial performance in an engaging way, the publication included a comic strip called 'Mr. Mortimore Money Man' - after the company's CFO.  

Doc Martens Best Internal Communications

The campaign also included a “brand book” - made up of vinyl records featuring the company's core values. 

Rebellious Self Expression? Bring it on!

Doc Martern Best Internal Communications-1

Congratulations - you made it to the end of the list. You're probably feeling a combination of tired, jealous and inspired. 

Though these campaigns differ in scope, complexity and budget - they have basic best practices in common:

  • Tell real stories with words, photos and video

  • Use catchy campaign names, metaphors and mascots

  • Put employees front and center

  • Think outside the box and have fun

Which campaign is your favorite? Know any other examples of great internal communications? We'd like to hear from you! 

Drop a comment below, or tweet us @grnorbit.

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Kath McNiff is writing her way into the future of work. She's constantly raving on about employee experience, internal communications and all things digital workplace. It's exhausting, but we love her anyway. 

Topics: employee engagement · Internal Communications · internal communications strategy

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