- June 25, 2013, Mark Lusky
In our collective rampant quest to sell more, grow faster, and beat out the competition, we too often focus obsessively on the outside customer to the detriment of our inside ones. Outside customers typically consist of those who buy from us and those who invest in us.
Inside customers include employees, suppliers, partners, and others directly involved in the day-to-day operation and success of a company engaged in anything from custom label printing to dealing with inks and adhesives.
Sometimes, you can satisfy both with a single act. Sometimes, you need to dedicate some internal PR to those working in the trenches—regardless of the impact on the outside customer base.
One example of “killing two birds with one stone” can be telling stories of exceptional employees to the outside world—ranging from a press release distributed via wire service to propagation via social media networks. This can create the dual benefit of promoting the company and its employees at the same time. It’s important to look for opportunities to do this with not only employees, but suppliers and partners as well.
When done in a professional and tasteful way, these types of stories can be extremely valuable to company perception in the marketplace. The key is to make them real and verifiable and not to use them as a launchpad for direct company promotion.
Viewers are savvy. They will make the connection between the fact that an admirable employee works for your company and give you appropriate credit for that connection. You don’t need to make it a walking advertisement for your company. And you certainly don’t want to make the employees and others around them feel they’re being “used” for company promotion.
Regardless of impact on the outside world, what “home spun” PR can you consider on behalf of your employees, suppliers, and partners?
- Random acts of kindness. Periodically, do something nice without having a particular reason. It can be nominal or significant—just make sure it isn’t cheesy. Having lunch catered in, offering free movie passes, or providing free access to wellness information all can say volumes to your workforce, suppliers, and others about your level of caring—and can help people weather the tough times a bit better.
- Merit-based rewards. An oldie but goodie, it’s important to reinforce this vitally important incentive at a time when corporate America often views workforces primarily as property with less emphasis on the human side. Instead of a model that just penalizes people for poor performance, there always should be incentives to improve and succeed. Companies unwilling to do this typically discover that the relatively small amount of money saved on incentives is more than offset by lower morale and reduced productivity of a dissatisfied workforce.
- Workplace perks. Many offsite service providers, from chair massage specialists to wellness experts, are very motivated by an invitation into group settings. Approach a select number of providers and ask them to come to the workplace to provide a sample of their services, understanding that they will receive potential new business as a result. While a massage therapist likely would be reluctant to provide free solo client treatments as a way to build new relationships, the opportunity to present to a group—even a small one of a half-dozen employees or fewer—can seem very enticing. At the same time you give these folks a stage, you give your people a perk.
- Offsite offers. Businesses with just about any size of workforce can leverage strength in numbers. Think about a nearby restaurant or recreation facility that you can approach about some type of promotion. In exchange for bringing in a group of new customers or expanding that base by including employee families and the like, you often can negotiate a sweet food and drink package—particularly if it’s a happy hour type event. Perhaps the package includes the drink specials already in force with a bunch of free appetizers for your group. Or it can be a more heavily discounted drink package. If the restaurant is eager enough, you can put together an event that will generate employee goodwill without breaking your bank.
- Internal accolades. Recognizing an employee or supplier doesn’t always have to be about external PR-oriented articles. Develop in-house channels for communicating about the good deeds of one or more people on a regular basis. This can be a spotlight section on an intranet, a profile posted on the lunchroom display board, even a text or e-mail about employee good deeds or accomplishments. Make the form(s) of communication match the style of your audience. If most of your people are young and accustomed to texting, this may prove the best way to offer information. On the other hand, a well-written print piece included with a paycheck or other regular correspondence may be a good idea—given that most of us are experiencing digital information overload already.
In the long run, PR efforts with your staff and suppliers can prove a very valuable complement to customer and shareholder relationship-building.
Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Since 2008, he has worked with Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital custom label printing company, as a content developer specializing in expert advice articles. Lusky presents common-sense ideas grounded in doing what’s real and right for managing and enhancing public image.