Internal Marketing: How to leverage the most valuable marketing tool—employees

As marketers, we know our company’s purpose, brand essence and values need to be at the core of every communications strategy. But often, these communications campaigns leave out one of our most important audience segments: employees.

Internal marketing, or communications specifically targeted to employees to drive measurable participation or change, is not just a memo or a company-wide email. Internal marketing is about intentionally engaging your employees in a campaign, just like you would external customers.

Why is this important? When you utilize internal marketing, you align your brand’s vision from the inside out. And when employees believe in your brand and are engaged in your company initiatives, they are motivated by their work, more loyal to the organization and more likely to serve as brand advocates.

There are two primary types of internal marketing:

  1. Campaign or communications strategy specifically targeting your employees. For example, employee engagement campaigns or benefits/wellness initiatives.
  2. Campaigns designed to socialize, educate and involve employees in the launch of an external campaign. For example, new products or services.

We know companies communicate with employees about a variety of topics on a regular basis. However, many times this is done through a show-and-tell or training, often as part of a human resources or internal communications initiative.

What we have found is that internal marketing campaigns work best—and achieve their goals of truly engaging employees—when they are designed by thinking like a marketer.

Starting in 2014, we had the opportunity to work with one of our largest partners, Mercy Health, on an integrated internal marketing campaign. As the largest healthcare system in Ohio, with more than 27 hospitals and 33,000 employees, they were in the process of changing their name and the names of all of their regional systems.

This name change could have been communicated with a simple memo, or in a staff meeting. But Mercy Health understood that in order to engage employees and make them feel safe in the transition, they needed to do more.

So we came up with a way to invite employees to the party and rally around the change. By doing this, we made employees part of the brand so when the time came to communicate the change with the public, they were able to be part of this outreach.

First, we developed a brand anthem, “This is what we were meant to do,” and from there developed a platform where everyone could take ownership. We created a brand anthem video that was shown to everyone at town hall meetings and movie parties. Once this was done we continued to phase the campaign through posters, banners, table tents, digital intranets, etc., all featuring people sharing their story about “this is what we were mean to do.”

By the end of the campaign, employees were lining up to be featured in the video series and asking for additional swag like t-shirts, buttons and wristbands. The anthem has permeated the culture so much that when an employee at a Mercy Health facility is thanked, they often answer with “no need to thank me. This is what I was meant to do.”

Like any marketing plan, there are several key elements that should be part of an internal marketing plan:

  1. Define the campaign intent. This means for both internal audiences. Are you launching a new product? Changing the company name? Creating a brand campaign?
  2. Establish ownership. Involve everyone who will be responsible for development, execution and launch. In most cases this is a mix of HR and marketing/communications.
  3. Know your audience. Are your employees also customers of your company? Do you employ younger workers, older workers, or a mix? Are your employees sitting at desks most of the day, or are they treating patients, helping customers or working remotely?
  1. Align the messaging. Make sure the messaging you create for external audiences is aligned to your internal audience. Your employees need to know how something impacts the customer, but also how it impacts them.
  2. Develop the tactics. Understand the vehicles of communications that will reach your employee base. Like any marketing campaign, these should include a mix of channels.
  3. Identify audience overlaps. Will your internal message ever be seen externally? Know ahead of time what messages will overlap between internal and external audiences, and what messages are designed specifically for employees.
  4. Launch strategically. Announce. Inform. Engage. Sustain. Develop a communications plan that phases the content so employees are engaged throughout (this may include both the internal and external campaigns).
  5. Evaluate and measure. This is sometimes the most difficult part. But think of ways you can gauge if an internal campaign reached its goals. Employee engagement surveys, staff participation in initiatives and general qualitative indicators of morale can all help determine if your efforts worked.

Remember, your employees are a vital audience segment. Using internal marketing can help you ensure your staff is excited to come to work and be brand ambassadors for your organization.


About the Authors: Lisa Laine Miller and James Gabriel Brown are the principals and co-founders of Powell-based advertising agency LaineGabriel, and are celebrating 10 years of successful business partnership. They can be reached at 614-441-4226, or


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