June 3, 2021 // //  //       //  Opinion

Principles and Approaches to Internal Corporate Communication

The story was originally published in China PR News  

Corporate culture is the heart of an enterprise and the driving force behind its sustainable development. To some extent, corporate culture can decide what kind of talent a company can attract and how good it is at employee retention. 

Therefore, internal communication is hugely important to strengthening corporate culture, as it provides a means of empowering employees to thrive and grow together with the company. 

The key to good corporate culture: Humanity 

To foster a positive corporate culture, humanity is key -- not rules and regulations. This is especially true for founders and top executives who oversee the company’s direction. 

A good business leader makes the staff’s continued employment a top priority even during challenging times, such as during a global pandemic. A good leader will pursue all means of reducing costs and improving business development, rather than laying off employees. 

Trip.com Group offers an inspiring example. As one of China's largest travel service companies, Trip.com suffered huge losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of these challenges, co-founder James Liang began to market the company’s products and services himself through livestreams, despite his considerable wealth and the personal freedom that comes with it. Within a year, he had brought in about RMB 5 billion in sales. By putting himself in front of the camera and entertaining audiences, the co-founder staved off a crisis and likely saved many jobs, an act worthy of respect. 

In recent years, the “996 work culture” -- working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week -- has sparked heated debate in Chinese society. This culture can be seen as a reflection of the values of corporate leaders. First, it is certainly true companies can ask employees to work overtime, provided they comply with labor regulations. But they must pay reasonable benefits and avoid squeezing employees. Secondly, companies should appreciate their employees and not take their extra efforts for granted by taking real steps to reward their employees. By showing true appreciation toward employees through benefits and rewards, companies and their leaders can avoid falling into disgrace among their own staffs and the public. 

Approaches to Internal Communication 

So how do we effectively communicate with employees in the digital era? 

Let’s examine one of our clients, a large medical equipment company. Its customer service department is made up of hundreds of engineers who work on-site for their customers for years on end. This has resulted in a fractured work environment, where employees lack a true sense of belonging and connection with the company.  

In the face of this challenge, effective internal communication is essential to increase employee retention. To better reach the company’s decentralized workforce, we launched a campaign involving a wide range of mediums, from posters to H5 pages to videos to in-depth articles, leveraging platforms, such as WeChat and EDM, and even hosting offline events. 

To implement the campaign, we began by working with the client to clearly define the service department’s core values. We then launched a five-month communication project called "Service Engineers’ Moments of Glory." Through this project, we engaged more than 700 engineers across five offices and created deep dives of 10 “customer hero” stories.   

One such story was a service engineer who received an emergency request while he was taking wedding photos. He rushed to the client’s worksite to help, still in his wedding attire. The customer was deeply moved by his commitment and impressed by his ability to quickly solve the equipment issues. 

In addition, we created an exclusive online H5 page using the company’s staff data. By typing their staff number into the page, the employee can see all their proudest moments and achievements from the past year.  

These efforts have had a positive knock-on effect: as the enhanced internal communications helped to improve the confidence of its service department employees, it also strengthened their customers’ trust, which in turn has brought more possibilities for business expansion. 

In today's business environment, competition for talent is extremely intense. Creating an image as a reputable employer is crucial for the healthy growth of all companies. But before embarking on an internal communication plan, the core ideas must be established -- namely, the company’s corporate culture and values. Only when the company truly cares about its staff will the staff feel truly valued, and only then can internal communication achieve its intended purpose. 

Jerry Zhu is the Managing Director & Partner of A+P in China, a veteran in China’s PR industry and a recognized expert on corporate communication. At Allison+Partners, he serves as the managing director for China and partner for Asia. He drives the agency’s expansion in China and overseees the service quality of all practice groups. He also acts as the senior counselor to many clients on brand positioning, issue and crisis management, content strategy, CSR efforts and training.  

Zikki provides integrated PR services with special focus on social media communication. She has worked with a wide range of clients covering the automobile, healthcare, education, finance and automation industries. Her clients include GE Healthcare, Elekta and Swiss Re, among others. 

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