As an Entrepreneur, You Need to Understand That Internal and External Communication are Two Separate Things
The difference between a good entrepreneur and a great one ultimately comes down to the many, many different skills that he or she possesses.
A great entrepreneur needs to be a natural leader – someone that inspires people and that is able to convince them that following them along on this crazy journey is, in fact, a good idea. A great entrepreneur also needs to have a clear vision of what that journey actually is. Everyone knows where you’re starting. You, at the very least, need to see ahead of time when you want to end… and how you’re going to get there.
But above all else, a great entrepreneur needs to be an excellent communicator – but this is actually more complicated than one might think. Internal and external communication, for example, are two entirely different concepts and should always be treated as such. Some people make the mistake of assuming this isn’t true or even confusing them and at that point, they’re probably looking at a number of problems that they would really do well to avoid.
One of your keys to success moving forward involves understanding exactly how they differ… and how to put yourself in a position to use those differences to your advantage.
How Internal and External Communication are Different
At its core, the major difference between internal and external communication is a simple one – to the point where it really is right there in the terms themselves.
Internal communication is all information conveyed with the purposes of exchanging ideas or relaying critical information within an organization itself. In other words, it has to do with all of those documents that you’re creating and all of those techniques you’re using to get important messages to your own employees and those around you.
External communication, however, means that you’re exchanging information with people outside your organization – meaning, in all likelihood, with your customers.
The essential thing to understand here is that even if you’re conveying the same information to those two groups, you’re likely going to do so in very different ways.
With external communication, you always want to put your best foot forward and guarantee that you’re making choices that align with the overall impression you want your brand to give off. You want every piece of content that you create – from FAQ pages on your website to advertisements to videos and beyond – to feel A) like it’s coming from the exact same place, and B) like that place is an entity that people would actually want to do business with in the first place.
Internal communication still needs to have that level of consistency, but the tone is likely going to be a bit different. Whereas you always want to be as formal as possible with external communication, internal communication can be a mixture of formal and informal practices. So when you sit down with a business card maker like Visme (which I founded to help people better communicate with one another), you’re creating a piece of content that is almost exclusively internal. Therefore, you’d want to make choices regarding language and design that allow it to come off as formal as possible.
But when you sit down with a timeline maker to create that internal document for your staff, you don’t necessarily need to maintain the same level of formality. Yes, you want to make sure that your message isn’t muddied – but you can use design choices that are a little looser and fun at the exact same time.
Internal and external communication are different in a number of other ways, too. This includes but is certainly not limited to things like:
- Objective. With internal communication, your number one goal is to transmit information between not only different business departments, but probably also business units as well. This differs from external communication, where you are almost exclusively trying to maintain a relationship (or start a whole new one) with people like other businesses or your customers.
- Frequency. In the best possible situation, the rate of internal communication that you see will always be high. Important things are happening every day and your people need to know about them. This is the only way to make sure that people are not only always on the same page, but also moving in the same direction. With external communication, however, your frequency will likely be low. You’ll only be sending exactly what you need to maintain a relationship (like product support documents or product launch information) and nothing more, less you run the risk of overwhelming someone and putting them off.
- Flow. As stated, internal communication is all about documents that will essentially only be seen within your organization. Now, sometimes internal documents can get out into the world so you don’t necessarily want to go crazy – but more often than not, this isn’t going to be something to worry about. External communication will ALWAYS exist out in the “real world” and, because of that, you’ll want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward at all times.
The formats you’ll use to convey that information will also vary depending on the type of communication you’re practicing, too. Internal communication will be all about not only things like memos but also manuals, faxes and more. You’ll probably also be engaging in a healthy amount of video conferencing, meetings and seminars.
External communication, on the other hand, gives you a wider array of different formats to choose from depending on your needs. In addition to the staples of the genre like emails, posters and advertisements you’ll also have things like newsletters, brochures and even video marketing to play with.
But overall, remember that one of the major differences (and benefits) with internal communication is that you’re talking exclusively to people who are already familiar with your business. You don’t have to explain to them who you are and what you do every single time because they already know. This gives you a starting point that is much farther along down the line towards the end zone than in other scenarios.
With internal communication, on the other hand, you don’t always have this luxury. Never forget that every piece of collateral you put out there into the world – be it a blog post that you’ve heavily researched using a tool like Respona or an email newsletter, a poster or even a video on Facebook or Twitter – has the potential to be someone’s first interaction with your brand.
Because of that, you do have to kind of “reset” every single time you create a new piece of content. You at the very least need to start by quickly conveying that core idea of “here is what our business is and here is why that matters to you.” Then you can move into the larger message of the day. If you don’t, you run the risk of people immediately asking themselves “okay… and why should I care?”
If they start to do that, there’s a chance you’ve lost them. With the sheer volume of marketing messages that people get on a daily basis, at that point it’s more than likely that they’re probably gone for good.
In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to become a master at both of these critical forms of communication. You need to be able to slip back and forth from one to the other effortlessly, spinning on a dime depending on whom you’re talking to at the moment.
If you’re able to do that, you can keep both those outside and inside your organization on the same page – making it easier than ever for you to accomplish your goal and bring your vision for the perfect business to life.
About the Author
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.