The toughest audience a company has is its employees. They know your brand, but the relationship an employee has with the brand is a bit like a marriage - they see it unshaven, with bits of egg on its vest and endlessly hark back to that time when it was led astray by that bright young spark in the corporate communications department.
Traditionally, internal communications has been a human resources stronghold, with its staple diet of e-mail, newsletters and company conferences, and the occasional upward communication from a disgruntled employee whose only opportunity to make their feelings known is to thump the HR manager's table. But there's change in the air.
Companies are recognising that what they need to successfully engage their employees is someone with excellent communication skills. Someone with an almost psychic understanding of people's motivation, needs, desires and weaknesses. Someone with the drive and vision to shape people's perceptions.
And what companies are finding is that, lo and behold, they already have this 'someone' under their very noses - yes, it is a marketer.
By their very nature, marketers know what turns people on. They certainly know how best to handle negative perceptions and they know the brand.
They recognise that nothing disengages audiences more than being talked at and they know how to listen. Who better than a marketer to talk brand to internal audiences? Who better to put the sparkle back into the marriage?
As the people most in touch with the customers, marketers bring credibility to the internal communications process. Marketers can tell the internal audience with authority that this latest initiative is good, because it is not based on a thought the chairman had while conversing with his rubber duck in the bath, but because it has come from the customer. You remember the customer, that person who buys the stuff and pays your mortgage?
I'm not suggesting that marketing has sole claim to internal communications - we need HR to bring substance to the mix, to remind us of the legal and procedural obligations and, if it's a question of an internal refocus, to ensure the message is driven home with well thought-out training and development support. I think as a profession, we marketers can get pretty enchanted with ourselves sometimes and we need the solid HR foil. But there has to be style shaping that substance and marketers know all about style.
I'm definitely noticing more marketing faces around the table at company briefings and it's brilliant. I believe that marketing is beginning to get recognition for the serious business discipline it is. The profession must continue to add value in the fraught field of internal communications and help the company to improve performance from the inside out. Who knows - when our job is done, when the sparkle is back and the company and its workforce want to renew their vows, we might even get to sit at the top table.