Communication Charity begins at home


When we have exciting news about our company or business it is natural to want to tell the world.  The reach of news and social media makes it possible to reach large numbers of people. 

The smart thing, though, is to tell your staff first, wherever possible.

If they have had prior information when reading about their company’s announcement, new product or service in the news media and on social media, the credibility of the management and leadership will be enhanced.

When they read it cold, management will be on the back foot, especially if it is a negative story.

People talk about their work, company and bosses – in the workplace with colleagues and when socialising with family and friends.  When a company is in the news people ask their friends and family who work there for details, background and confirmation.  Your employee, not the CEO or company spokesperson, often provides the first, if not the only, information your customers receive about your company. 

That is another reason why the staff, members of your Board and other key stakeholders must be informed beforehand – if not in detail, at least about broad plans, developments and news.  Quite apart from the functional value of the information, it is a sign of respect.

The laws of physics apply: when there is a communication vacuum it will be filled with speculation, rumours even misinformation.  Consider this risk if you decide to say nothing about something you regard as too sensitive or premature.  The grapevine steps in and usually beats official channels. You have no control over the grapevine’s content!  Unhappy staff leak negative information to news media and on social media.

In a crisis or when urgent communication is needed, you may not have the opportunity to tell staff first.  Tell them as soon as possible thereafter, also explaining briefly why the outside world got to know first.  Your track record over time will determine your credibility with staff.

Your organisation should have good electronic and print information channels.  They complement, but never replace, face-to-face communication.  This is especially true in difficult times.

Internal communication as well as the quality, visibility and presence of management and leadership are really put to the test when the going gets tough.  Supervisors, managers, executives and leaders who walk their talk, face concerned or angry employees when difficult decisions, like retrenchments, are upon them have the best chance of weathering the storm.

Staff who are not informed of news that affects them, their work and their company, easily become disinterested, cynical critics.  When asked about their employer, their response might well be: “Don’t ask me – I just work there!  Those at the top think they know it all.”

Friends and family of the critics tend to believe them.  After all, this person works there and should know what the company is like.  This conversation is therefore not a positive, brand building event that would make this company and its products a top of mind choice.

The reverse is also true.  An informed, respected and involved employee is likely to speak up for his company and brand.  Imagine this:  “I am so sorry to hear you had a bad service experience.  That is really not what my company and our boss are like.  Please give me the details, and we will resolve this.”  Chalk and cheese.

Staff who know what their organisation is about, their role and place in it and how this fits in with what their colleagues do are better equipped to give your customers a seamless, consistent and positive brand experience every time they call, e-mail, order, visit, or complain. 

A company that gets internal communication, respect, values and ethics right usually creates a voluntary, credible field force of brand ambassadors who say good things about their employer in their (sizeable) circle of influence.  That is something money cannot buy.


  • Tell staff first
  • Informed, respected staff are brand ambassadors and better at customer service
  • The opposite is cynical critics
  • Print and electronic communication cannot replace face-to-face communication, especially in tough times
  • The grapevine beats official channels
  • Your employee is often your company’s news channel