Accenture CMO: ‘Valuing your people, inspiring growth’
External communications may get the glory, but internal communications serve as the true glue and key driver of a business. Speaking at the recent B2B World Fest, Accenture’s CMCO Jill Kramer advocated for flipping “communications as usual” to ensure that internal communications gets the focus it deserves based on the transformative impact it delivers.
To ensure that internal communications gets the focus it deserves based on the transformative impact it delivers
As organizations across the business world take stock of both their internal and external communications two years into Covid, the spotlight has fallen on their own people and teams – who are almost certainly working harder than before, and in many cases seriously re-considering their current and future career options.
‘How to revalue people and teams to inspire growth’ was therefore an apt title for a session at The Drum’s B2B World Fest at which Tom Stein, chairman and chief growth officer at global B2B agency Stein IAS, interviewed Accenture’s chief marketing and communications officer, Jill Kramer.
In her remarks, Kramer called for a re-balancing between the time and financial investment spent in reaching external audiences and that spent engaging internal audiences. In her CMCO role for less than a year, Kramer at Accenture has committed to leveraging the company’s “great talent in the internal communication space,” but doing so in a way that’s more aligned experientially with her approach to external comms.
“There are certain things that reliably happen on the external comms side,” she said. “An investment has to be presented and sometimes defended. There are time horizons you're managing to, for example when media buys must be placed, budgets must be signed off, and creative must be reviewed and ready.
“With internal, though, you can easily lose those time horizons; you lose those catalytic moments that compel you to set goals, assert and re-assert your investment of time, talent and money, prompt you to say this is working and this isn't, and fully commit. It's like the tap never turns off.”
Kramer advocated for greater rigor to be applied to internal communications to create similar catalytic “moments, horizons and data points.” She further advocated that the investment of leaders’ time is crucial to success: “The fact that internal channels are ‘free’ and not paid for can lead decision makers to not being as protective of the internal audience, to not prioritizing the need to reach and consistently message to internal audiences.”
In Kramer’s view, the potential result validates this prioritization given the significant evidence that internal alignment with and active advocacy of key messages, concepts and programs makes them exponentially more effective when released to external constituencies.
Flipping the usual communications process
To inspire growth from the inside out, Kramer strongly recommended flipping the usual communications process in which internal communications is typically not the priority: “It takes discipline. Whether internally or externally, the first thing is to really establish your message. Does it have a compelling and distinct point of view? Is it memorable? Is it extendable? Is it accessible? Then, you need to make sure your internal audience is aware of it, has had sufficient exposure to it, and is an active amplifier of it. And then, you can take that final step and invest to engage the external audience. Ideally, you should do this sequentially—or at least overlap the last two phases.”
According to Kramer, “internal first” prioritization is far from a new concept in B2B marketing. But it is a widely under-leveraged concept, which makes it an opportunity for B2B brands to drive growth and out-perform competitors.
Revaluing internal comms to fully value people
Kramer also pointed to the word “revaluing” as a key part of her work: “Certain areas of our business can become overly familiar and close. We need to step back and re-look at our people, our practitioners, and their value.” For Kramer, this has taken on extra significance during the pandemic: “Everybody and everything we do should be re-evaluated, revalued and reprioritized through the lens of what's important and what's not; what energizes us and what doesn't; and then making sure that we never forget how tired most people are right now. We need to get back to a place of re-establishing what good looks like -- what's worthy of our time and talent so that fatigue does not become the norm.”
Most importantly, Kramer asserted that employees need to feel that their work is being seen. She states, “Sometimes leaders and managers get away from really seeing the work that's being done, and really acknowledging who’s doing the work. Managers need to be empowered to spend significant time with the people all through the organization who are really doing the work.” This requires a mindset shift for leaders to focus daily on individual and team priorities, she said.
Kramer expressed that Accenture’s own repositioning over the past six months has enabled this revaluation to become deeply meaningful and actionable. In a process that began pre-pandemic, Kramer spearheaded an organization-wide initiative “to look at what everybody in the enterprise wakes up to do every day.” That information infused a new Accenture purpose—to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity—supported by a brand repositioning with the through line, Let There Be Change.
“We believe that right now, one of the biggest promises of the power of technology and human ingenuity is to address change: to create it, to harness it, to embrace it – so that value comes from change. It’s a message that applies in equal measure to internal and external audiences,” Kramer concluded
Tune in to watch Jill Kramer’s full session on demand here.
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