We are helping a client with an internal communications strategy and implementation. Most of the executive team are on board, a few are sceptical. We are looking for research and evidence that clearly links great internal communications to the bottom line.
So in searching for the evidence, I came across a great article in an American magazine called Fast Company. They highlighted the Parnassus Workplace Fund, an American fund which invests only in companies with great workplaces.
‘Over the past five years – the height of the Great Recession – the average annual return on the Workplace Fund was an incredible 10.81%. The S&P Index for the same period was just 3.97%, a 6.84% difference. Dodson believes the wide gap in performance is easily explained: “I think what happens when you have a contented workplace, people are willing to put out more effort to improve operations during really difficult times. While I think every organization has their ups and downs, the downs are not as pronounced because everybody pulls together to try to get through the crisis. And, of course, this consistently more engaged performance inevitably reveals itself in the firm’s bottom line.”
After five years, investments in the Workplace Fund had grown to $80 million. Today, less than 3 years later, balances have ballooned to over $300 million. As reported by rating agency Morningstar, the fund also ranks highest in shareholder return compared to 1,303 other peer funds.
This is great evidence. The trouble is, it is American. Where is the research for the UK?
I have been to our contacts at Bradford University School of Management, where they specialise in HR and leadership research. An academic suggested the CIPD research on High Performance Working Practices, though warned impact is mixed (we’re not a member of CIPD so trying to get hold of this copy).
So now to the nub of this story. Getting back on the internet, I found a report that sounded as if it might have the answers, Strategic Internal Communications by the Ark Group.
You can’t download the whole document – just the exec summary and index. But there in chapter 7 it sounds as if we have found our answer?
Ark Group is a global company with offices in London, America and Australia. I rang the London office and asked to speak to one of the authors, Leanne Mills or Shirley Anne Fortina. The pleasant young man said neither of them worked in the company.
I explained I was after this report, on their website, could I speak to someone who could help me? He faffed around, not having a clue what to do and eventually I said thanks, don’t bother, I’ll contact the authors direct.
I found Shirley Anne on Twitter – both the authors had their own business websites detailed on the report – and I contacted Leanne through an enquiry form on her website. If I wasn’t so desperate for evidence, I would have abandoned the whole exercise. Both have come back and are checking if they can send this report.
So why am I blazing?
This is a classic example of PR for the sake of PR – not thinking how you maximise it for the business. The report can’t be that old, it references a piece of research up to 2012, so presumably this research paper was produced to engage with potential clients?
On their website, Ark Group says
We aim to help professionals and organisations work more intelligently by delivering reliable information and techniques that can be used to benchmark, instigate, develop and improve fundamental business processes and procedures.
The enquiry I am making on behalf of our client is surely exactly the type of business they were hoping to engage and win?
But the PR element hasn’t been integrated into core business practices, such as briefing receptionists on how to handle enquiries.
So how do you ensure you get maximum value for your PR campaigns – and don’t lose that essential enquiry that could convert to significant business?
- Be clear about the goals for your PR – media coverage or ‘awareness’ should not be an end goal, link it to the business you hope to get
- Make sure everyone in your business knows about the project, who it is aimed at helping, who to contact if someone is interested. A classic is that you get a piece in the FT, a colleague is at a business lunch and someone mentions your interesting research – and they respond, ‘oh I don’t know anything about that, it’s another department’
- Brief and keep briefing anyone who might answer the phone, including temps. They are the strongest and weakest link in your chain. Almost certainly the response you want to a PR campaign will come through a phone call from someone you don’t know
- The other way they are likely to contact you is through your website – do you monitor web mail enquiries? How many businesses have you contacted through a website and five years later you are still waiting for a reply
- Make sure everyone in your business is clear about where to refer calls to – whether a casual mention at a lunch or a call to your receptionist
If you measure the success of a PR campaign by ‘awareness’ or media coverage, then you may well be losing business into thin air.
Can you estimate the value of lost business?
Do you need a PR consultancy, contact us PR, marketing and communications consultancy Harrogate, Yorkshire and Dubai
Victoria TomlinsonChief executive, Northern Lights PR
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Ben PindarCommunications director, Northern Lights PR
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Helen RobinsonAssociate, Northern Lights PR
Jonny RossAssociate, Northern Lights PR