Strategic communications
to engage employees

Strategic communications are how we shift culture; recruit and retain employees; build employee engagement; create acceptance of major change; and help individuals see how their job roles support leadership’s vision and the success of the company.

There’s a business reason behind any internal communication — or at least there should be.

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What’s the desired outcome?

When we begin any internal communications effort with clients, we need to understand what needle you’re trying to move. What do you want employees to know, believe or do? We start by identifying the business impact we’re hoping to achieve.

Sometimes that’s a long-term effort to shift the culture towards a new mission, vision or values. Other times it might be to help employees embrace the idea of being acquired by a larger company or understand the business reasons requiring layoffs. It could even be a business impact like encouraging employees to preserve their productivity by reducing meeting time.

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Strategic communications begin with Discovery

After more than two decades working with global brands on employee culture, we rarely see a communications challenge we haven’t tackled before. What’s different each time is the culture of the company.

To develop the most effective strategic communication for your employee audience, we begin with the Discovery process. This usually involves a major download of any existing communications or other documents you think might be helpful. That’s followed by stakeholder interviews to understand the business reasons for the communication, and then often by employee focus groups to understand the gap between leadership’s vision or desired outcome and employees’ perceptions.

One benefit of the Discovery process is that we’re able to bring an outsider’s view to your culture. Because we’ve seen so many different corporate cultures, we can more easily recognize what’s unique about yours. Our clients may not notice those special cultural hallmarks simply because they’re too close to see them clearly.

That Discovery process yields important insights on which we can build a strong strategic communications plan, and then develop the creative work to deliver that messaging.

Vision and values

Our highest goal is to align employees with the vision and values of their company’s leadership. Our strategic communications can help them understand how their individual job roles support the success of the company, thereby building employee engagement.

Helping employees understand how the values can be applied in their day-to-day roles equips them to respond to unexpected situations, make the best decisions and take the right actions.

Change management

Our recommendation for strategic communications around any major change is to provide employees with a reliable source of information about what they can expect. Sometimes leadership will avoid communicating about a change they perceive as negative, thinking that if they don’t mention it, employees won’t think it’s a big deal. But in the absence of communication from corporate, the rumor mill will fill in the gaps. And those rumors are almost always worse than the reality.

Employee stress and anxiety around change can be reduced by keeping them in the loop and helping them understand the business reasons for the change — as well as the positive results expected as a result.

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Employer brand

An authentic employer brand helps attract and retain employees who will thrive in your culture. These strategic communications can enlarge the conversation beyond compensation to include the entire employee experience.

The best employer brands successfully capture the essence of what’s best about working at that company. How do employees describe a great day at work? Why do they stay here rather than take a job somewhere else?

The employer brand often includes some aspirational elements, based on leadership’s desired culture. But it will backfire if it doesn’t pass what we call the eyeroll test. Will employees roll their eyes at the claims of this employer brand?

HR Communications

HR departments are increasingly addressing the needs of the whole person, with an expanded definition of wellness that includes mental health, mindfulness and financial wellness. At Tribe, we apply a consumer branding approach to HR communications, whether we’re addressing open enrollment, training & development or talent acquisition. Employees are busy, so strategic communications for human resources are most effective when they’re engaging, easy to understand and with a clear call to action.


We work most often with global companies headquartered in the U.S., so we’re accustomed to considering audience differences in geography and language. We also work with many non-desk employee audiences, in manufacturing, retail, hospitality and healthcare.

This unwired audience of employees who aren’t sitting in front of computers is often overlooked in internal communications — because they’re harder to reach. The manager cascade can be a useful channel, especially when it’s supported with the right strategic communications tools, but we advocate for at least one channel direct from corporate to the frontline. It takes more creativity to find those channels and touchpoints, and sometimes they’re decidedly low-tech, but we’ve developed a wide range of solutions to connect with non-desk employees. 

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Strategic communications for employees include being smart about the channels we use to deliver those communications. Our Discovery process often includes a channel audit where we’re able to discern which channels are most effective with your employee audience — and which aren’t.

Most strong communications plans will need  a range of channels — from those we can use for brief impactful messaging to those that allow for more in-depth coverage of a topic. We’ll generally include a mix of digital and IRL channels, and often use environmental signage, posters or digital monitors to direct employees to the intranet for more information.

This is a partial list the channels we consider when developing a communication plan:

  • Intranet
  • Microsite
  • Video
  • Podcast
  • Digital signage
  • Manager toolkits
  • Vision books
  • Email digest
  • Posters
  • Table tents
  • Mirror clings
  • Town halls
  • Internal social media
  • Events

Tribe’s approach to strategic communications

We believe a brand’s most important audience is its internal one, the employees who live and breathe the brand every day — and who create the customer or client experience.

We also believe internal communications deserve the same high standards of strategic thinking and creative excellence that one would expect for consumer advertising. Employees don’t have to pay attention to our communications. It’s up to us to make those communications engaging, motivating and inspiring.

We find few agencies can match our experience in employee communications for large employers. In 2002, we started with clients like Porsche, UPS and The Home Depot. In the decades since, we’ve worked with companies as large as Amazon and Cargill, as old as Levi’s and US Steel, and as comfortable as La-Z-Boy. See more examples of our work here