By Paul Kidwell, PRSA Boston member
Often a company’s internal communications strategy is defined by its structure and culture. After Takeda Pharmaceutical Company acquired Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a cultural icon within the Cambridge biotech sector, in 2008, it was critical to generate and support an ongoing dialogue between management and employees to both assess and articulate changes to the organization.
More than ever, communications needed to be seen as a “two-way street” and that an employee’s voice was both strong and being heard by senior management. The company’s internal communications (IC) program was constant, consistent and a multi-media program of internal portal articles, videos on company televisions and a series of internal education and social events. PRSA Boston sat down with Shant Salakian, senior manager of IC at Takeda, to discuss his approach to developing an effective and successful IC program.
PRSA Boston: What is the business rationale or goal that a company wants to achieve by implementing a proactive IC program?
Shant Salakian: I believe the IC function is hugely responsible for engaging employees with the company mission and vision so that they come to work every day to give their best.
PRSA Boston: IC programs must be more sophisticated than past endeavors to resonate with employees. Please cite some initiatives that have been the most successful.
Shant Salakian: IC programs don’t necessarily need to be sophisticated. However, IC professionals need to work hard to make it easy for employees to participate in programs and understand company goals and values. Consistent, transparent and simple communications are, in my opinion, essential to empower employees to become brand ambassadors. Also, to truly resonate with employees, it’s important to seek their feedback through surveys, which allow you to tweak things the next time around!
One of our IC programs that is incredibly successful yet simple in concept, connects our scientists and support staff with patients who are taking medicines discovered and developed by our company. The events feature patients who share their stories through testimonial videos and live interactions. Tapping into the core of why our employees are at work is incredibly inspiring.
PRSA Boston: Do the internal messages differ from those that are being created for public audiences?
Shant Salakian: I believe a successful IC program needs to closely mirror the same messages that are being communicated to external audiences. If this is done correctly, employees can be strong advocates for the brand and will naturally promote the company’s values and products with family and friends.
PRSA Boston: By its nature, social media is designed to build and foster communities. Does social media have a role in helping to engage employees? What is its influence?
Shant Salakian: Internal social media vehicles can be great tools to foster employee camaraderie and solicit quick feedback. However, guidelines need to be put in place so that these forums don’t become venting grounds. A moderator can help facilitate these forums and address any posts that don’t comply with guidelines. Also disallowing anonymous posting will alleviate a lot of the concerns senior management may have with these forums.
PRSA Boston: Does IC integrate within the overall communications infrastructures such as PR, visual communications, etc.?
Shant Salakian: IC is only one piece of the communication pie and should work hand in hand with other members of the corporate communications team. Close partnership between the functions allows a holistic and timely approach to communications.